TERMINAL 5: New round of pile-driving

(Port of Seattle photo from February, before in-water work ended for the season)

12:26 PM: The extended in-water pile driving for the Terminal 5 modernization project is over, but now it’s time for a different round of pile driving. The announcement is from the Port of Seattle:

As the Port of Seattle and The Northwest Seaport Alliance Terminal 5 project continues, we expect impact pile driving of steel piles on the uplands of Terminal 5 as early as today, April 3, and will continue intermittently into mid- or late May.

Pile driving is restricted to the following days and times:

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays;
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays;
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays and legal holidays for vibratory pile driving only;

No impact pile driving is allowed on Sundays or federal holidays (there will be no pile driving on Saturdays outside the fish window [Aug. 15 to Feb. 15]).

We also want to communicate some of the health and safety measures undertaken at the terminal due to COVID19. The contractor has notified us that these steps are being taken to maintain workplace safety:

-All workers are receiving health screening by a private contractor each morning before beginning work.

-Workers are driving to the job-site in their personal vehicles and have been asked not to carpool there.

-They also are encouraged to take breaks in their own cars rather than the break room.

-Extra cleaning protocols have been established for break rooms, sani-cans and construction equipment.

-Social distancing is monitored and enforced.

-Signage about best health practices has been placed throughout the terminal.

-If folks have any comments, questions, or concerns, please contact us through any of these channels:

Terminal 5 community phone line: 206-787-6886.

Email: Terminal5_Outreach@portseattle.org

Find out more via the project website: t5construction.participate.online/

ADDED 5:43 PM: Many commenters wondered if the pile-driving posed any risk to the closed-for-cracks West Seattle Bridge. We asked SDOT. The agency’s reply:

We have been working with the Port of Seattle regarding their Terminal 5 construction work. The vibrations and energy from the marine pile driver diminishes exponentially the further it travels from the construction site, and is negligible by the time it reaches the nearest bridge foundation a third-of-a-mile away. Put another way, if this construction equipment posed a risk for the bridge it would be causing much greater damage to the buildings closer by.

In the ongoing analysis, SDOT adds that “we have partnered with an international team of engineering experts to conduct a comprehensive safety analysis which takes into account many external variables, including vibrations from nearby traffic, construction, and maritime activity.”

22 Replies to "TERMINAL 5: New round of pile-driving"

  • John April 3, 2020 (12:48 pm)

    I am surprised this is not prohibited as it does not appear to be ‘essential’.

  • Mark Schletty April 3, 2020 (1:05 pm)

    I sure hope that it has been determined that this pile driving isn’t contributing to the bridge failure. Not an engineer, but it seems like a good possibility, or at least should be eliminated as a further risk. 

    • Jon Wright April 3, 2020 (1:37 pm)

      “Not an engineer” is all we need to know.

      • Rumbles April 3, 2020 (1:56 pm)

        @Jon Wright LOL!  Perfect!

      • Mark Schletty April 3, 2020 (2:51 pm)

        Sorry Jon, I didn’t know one had to be an engineer to ask a reasonable question or raise an issue for consideration. 

        • Jethro Marx April 3, 2020 (7:20 pm)

          An engineer would know to neither drive a pile so hard as to break the rest of the city nor erect a bridge susceptible to overdriven pile vibration. Add this to the long list of other reasonable questions like, “While you’re up there could you put a train on it?” 

      • Vf April 3, 2020 (3:05 pm)

        Be nice Jon.

  • Matt P April 3, 2020 (1:24 pm)

    Is this wise with the bridge the way it is?  Also, has the increased wind lately played a factor in the bridge’s cracking?  Maybe I’m just noticing more wind since I’m home more and this amount of wind is the norm.

  • anonyme April 3, 2020 (3:09 pm)

    Seems like a reasonable question, especially as the accelerated cracking seems to fit the timeline of the pile driving. Given the terrible judgment of engineers on various projects around Seattle, I’m glad that someone with plain common sense is paying attention. The appearance of the water at the bottom of the photo is also concerning.

    • WSJ April 3, 2020 (4:12 pm)

      It only sounds reasonable to ignorant people.

      • Josh Heavy April 9, 2020 (3:01 pm)

        I think a question we need to ask – because we really haven’t ruled it out – is what about the birds? I used to see all sorts of birds on the bridge, before it nearly failed. Usually seagulls, sometimes crows, but, you know, any bird could be there.

        The birds with all their trampling feet (each bird has two, usually) are a big possible cause of the bridge failure. At least I haven’t heard our city government definitively rule it out. That’s before even accounting for the bird crap. Buddy of mine told me bird crap is acidic. Bad for car paint.

        What if it got into the cracks, and started eating away the bridge? Maybe the steel inside? Again, no comment from the city. No study on the bird crap. We need really look into this, because these things haven’t been ruled out, and the bridge is important to West Seattle.

        • WSB April 9, 2020 (5:15 pm)

          Ha ha.

  • Joe Z April 3, 2020 (3:25 pm)

    Once I sneezed really loud while standing next to the bridge pillar, I wonder if that made the cracks grow 

  • Mike April 3, 2020 (4:03 pm)

    Your tax dollars at work.

  • StringCheese April 3, 2020 (4:09 pm)

    WSB, has there been a statement from SDOT regarding the pile driving? If their experts can say that it is definitively having no effect on the bridge, that would be useful information.  On the other hand, if they cannot say this, then this is definitely something that needs to be addressed by our elected leaders.

    • WSB April 3, 2020 (4:20 pm)

      No, there has not. I have the question out to them, don’t know if I’ll get an answer today. If I had known yesterday that they were restarting today, I would have asked in our interview. Do keep in mind the current T-5 work is at the north end of the dock, not all that close to the bridge.

  • AD April 3, 2020 (4:23 pm)

    To think that the pile driving is NOT a reason (even if slight) the cracks were accelerated without any info is absurd. We had a house construction 1 block away that did extensive pile driving and foundation work. Not only did the water main break during that timeframe. We now have new substantial cracks in the street, sidewalk, and personal driveway. I can hear the #5 pile-driving from our house and it does not sound like a small undertaking. If the DOT is so worried about the workers and areas/bridge below. I am surprised this is being allowed without anyone looking into it or even a mention. Maybe someone should be looking into an alternative to the ships using this area until we have a plan for a roadway that could service an explosion of new heavy truck traffic. 

    • WSJ April 3, 2020 (8:24 pm)

      See the note added to the story. The difference between 1 block and half a mile, in terms of energy from vibration is literally hundreds of times less. It’s a non-issue.

  • dsa April 3, 2020 (5:50 pm)

    They could put and probably should have any already have installed  accelerometers (vibration meter) on the bridge by now anyway.  That way if there is a noticeable increase in vibration from any cause such as pile driving it could be postponed to a safer time.

  • WSB April 3, 2020 (5:54 pm)

    I’ve added SDOT’s answer to the bridge question, above.

  • Dunno April 3, 2020 (8:24 pm)

    Wanna know what it’s like to have your building torn apart by gov. work nearby, talk to the folks from Roxbury Auto Parts.  Working at South Center Costco now.  Without a doubt, this pile driving has not been a positive for the WS Bridge.   Of course, the cracking started in 2013,  but only now are the city engineer’s starting to work on a real solution?   24/7?  Meanwhile, ride the bus, the  bus drivers are happy…Heck no!  That’s a fact.   I’ve talked several.  Who wants to be exposed.

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