By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“The need for T-5 is as relevant as ever,” Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck declared while presenting the annual “State of the Port” speech to the Chamber – usually given at an outdoor lunch at Jack Block Park, but presented online this year due to COVID-19.
The PPNC also met online. T-5’s project manager Emma Del Vento told the group that the project’s first-phase construction schedule is running behind.
You’ll recall a two-month holdup in pile-driving last fall because “larger than documented” riprap was snapping timber piles, and steel ones had to be substituted. Then, the port says, COVID-19 came along. In all, the north berth (Phase 1) is now expected for completion toward the end of the first quarter next year, instead of the end of this year. That’s a change since the update given to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition in March, and it means T-5 international cargo operations would start around mid-2021. The full project is still expected to conclude by the end of 2022.
A major point of interest for Pigeon Point is the “quiet zone” that will be part of it, requiring trains to avoid horn use. PPNC’s Pete Spalding asked about it. While it’s intended to reduce the noise from trains bound to and from T-5, the discussion served as a reminder that it won’t affect any of the train horns you hear right now – no train traffic is currently serving T-5, so if you’re hearing train horns, they’re from someplace else – Harbor Island or businesses on the Duwamish River – and those rails are not part of the future quiet zone.
Curtis Stahlecker, whose project role includes the quiet zone, explained that it spans about 6/10 of a mile, roughly from the bridge – the Riverside Mill vicinity – to T-5. “The vast majority of the Harbor Island and vicinity train traffic is NOT going to be in the quiet zone.” Planning for the project continues; it’s “more complex than we anticipated, a lot of other businesses are affected by it.” The zone includes five current crossings, “four (that) will be closed eventually.”
Spalding noted that Pigeon Point has dealt with train noise for decades; the port’s Mick Shultz reminded all that “under federal law, the railroads have IMMENSE authority … i don’t know that there’s much you can do” about noise, without some sort of federal-level solution that affected communities across the nation would likely have to jointly lobby for.
Another noise issue – the on-land pile-driving for rails to support the big new cranes that T-5 will get. That’s likely to continue through most of the rest of this year.
Steinbrueck, meantime, said the port has been “engaging with the city” regarding the West Seattle Bridge closure as well as the T-5 project. And he said the port’s “looking at several (of its) prpperties” that might factor into an expansion of Water Taxi service – near Jack Block Park, Pier 2, even possibly part of T-5. But there’s a lot to review, such as environmental contamination, when determining whether property is usable. Then it would have to be brought to the commission for consideration. (Steinbrueck has an extra interest in bridge-related traffic mitigation: He’s on the WS Bridge Community Task Force, which meets for the third time this Wednesday.)
One other port note: It’s looking doubtful there will be any kind of a cruise-ship season in Seattle this year, Steinbrueck said, noting that regardless of what you personally feel about cruising, it’s responsible for $900 million in local revenue each year and 5,500 area jobs.