Port Commissioners to get Terminal 5 briefing today, including pile-driving problem

When Seattle and Tacoma port commissioners meet today as managing members of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, they will get a progress report on the Terminal 5 modernization project in West Seattle.

Documents for the meeting (above, or here in PDF) reveal that part of the work hit a snag – pile-driving for slope stabilization had to be put on hold for almost two months. The briefing document says the problem was that wooden piles were snapping against “larger than documented riprap.” This was discovered within two weeks of the start of pile-driving in September; it was suspended in mid-October when they “determined that incremental adjustments would not work.” Within a month, the summary continues, they had a solution: to “replace 14” timber piles with 20” steel piles,” which also meant 40 percent fewer piles. They resumed pile-driving on December 5th. The document does not mention whether or how that’ll add to the cost, but there’s a significant schedule effect: “The first in-water work window will end February 15, 2020, and we are requesting an extension from the regulatory agency due to the in-water work delay.” The duration of the extension won’t be known until next month. As for what led to the pile problem, the slide deck prepared for the meeting elaborates: “As-builts and specs (were) not available and underwater investigation (2014) looked at a small sample.”

Overall, the summary says “T5 Berth Modernization Program is meeting major milestones, on schedule and budget.” Another note of interest: The “quiet zone” (to reduce train-horn noise) is at 90 percent design, with a “stakeholder meeting” expected before spring. Today’s meeting, meantime, is at 11:30 am in Tacoma and will be streamed here; see location and other info on the agenda.

15 Replies to "Port Commissioners to get Terminal 5 briefing today, including pile-driving problem"

  • Mike January 14, 2020 (9:50 am)

    Getting real tired of the continuous pounding as the Port tries to bring T-5 into the recent past.  What will they do next as business bleeds away to East Coast ports?  

  • Lisa January 14, 2020 (10:22 am)

    Why would Asia ship to our east coast, Mike?

  • john January 14, 2020 (12:33 pm)

    Good reason to halt modernization, MIKE is real tired.

  • Jim January 14, 2020 (1:09 pm)

    The Feb 15th ending date for this session is to protect the salmonoids.  There should be no extension.  They can catch up in the next session starting in August, as planned.

  • Mike January 14, 2020 (1:35 pm)

    The new, big container ships can now go thru new Panama Canal to East Coast ports, avoiding the train haul from West Coast ports.  Port of Seattle is fighting uphill, and late to the game.  And John, you try living uphill from the action, the steady pounding that goes on and on.  It’s not only loud, but  the shock waves travel to our houses.  On and on and on.  But the Port has never been adept with their investments.  Remember when it used eminent domain to force many marinas and marine businesses out of the Duwamish basin, at gunpoint in one instance, to accommodate its grandiose plans.  Plans never materialized of course.  

    • Peter January 14, 2020 (3:01 pm)

      Yes, the obvious thing for shippers with products bound for the west is to ship them to the east coast and then transport them across the continent. Makes perfect sense.

    • Bob Lang January 14, 2020 (3:29 pm)

      Is it cheaper to ship from China to the east coast?  Is it a shorter joirney.?  I don’t understand this uphill battle you speak of.  Investment is part of business.It must be nice to not need to work for a living.  Many people depend on the ports to support their families (truck drivers, apple growers , etc)I do see how it can be inconvenient, during the middle of the day, to hear the pile driving.  But most people are at work during these hours.I am for more jobs here.

    • Sixbuck January 14, 2020 (9:40 pm)

      No, many newer post-Panamax ships are too large to go through even the remodeled Panama Canal, eg. the CMA Benjamin Franklin. Even then, most east coast ports are not deep enough for larger vessels.  

  • Pilsner January 14, 2020 (2:58 pm)

    Hey Mike, can I come over to listen to the pile driving? I’ll bring a 6 pack. And wouldn’t using the water ways to get to the east coast be something like 4 times the distance and 1/20th the speed?

  • OldGuy January 14, 2020 (3:49 pm)

    AMEN Mike! John doesn’t realise the reality of the new, wider Panama Canal. It was pushed for by shipping companies that wanted the cheaper cost of shipping right to the Gulf/East Coast port’s. The only way for West Coast port’s to compete is to be cheaper-read more taxpayer subsidies. I do remember the marina’s that were kicked out of the Duwamish so a container terminal could be built. Land is STILL unused. My dad had his boat at Riverside marina. It and Pioneer were 10 minutes from home.

  • Tony S January 14, 2020 (6:48 pm)

    Weird. I live right above T-5 and have barely noticed the pile driving, and work from home. And I’m not deaf, although my spouse may claim otherwise. 

  • 1994 January 14, 2020 (8:23 pm)

    I am not a shipping cost expert but here is a question. Would unloading ships in Seattle, then loading the containers onto trains or trucks and moving them over land be cheaper than leaving it on the ship all the way to it’s intended destination of the Gulf or East coast? Someone must have penciled this out. How about the pollution emissions – are there less emissions by ship all the way, or part way by ship and then the rest by land?

    • Curtis January 15, 2020 (7:35 am)

      While Mike’s whinging about the noise is tiresome, his fundamental point is correct. The new Panama Canal may create a lot of competitive pressure for West Coast Ports.The general rule if thumb at play is this:*water transport is about half the cost of rail*rail transport is about half the cost of road*road transport is about half the cost of airOther cost factors in play are:-East Coast ports have opened up without unions, or their unions are more flexible than the west coast.-there are about 3 times more people on the east coast than the West, and cargo volumes are commensurate to thatThe one saving grace for the West Coast might be the return trip cost.  Ships tend to come here full and go back empty… that is a long return run to ride empty (maybe 25 days instead of 10-12)

  • robert January 15, 2020 (4:38 pm)

    Are the timber piles creosoted?

    • dsa January 16, 2020 (11:51 am)

      I was think the same thing about creosote myself.  I thought the goal was to end creosote piles.  Besides concrete or steel should last longer.  I do not understand why it took so long to decide to use steel, never should have started with wood in the first place.  I think maybe DNR might have had to approve the use of creosote, just something I’m remembering from doing this once myself.

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