As West Seattle residents continue to stress over congested roads and lengthy commutes due to the bridge closure, a larger question looms in the background: How will the West Seattle Bridge closure impact the region’s maritime industry?

Prior to the disruption caused by the bridge closure, the Port of Seattle had been one of the region’s largest providers of good blue-collar and union jobs in the area. With the port providing almost 60,000 jobs — and with Boeing’s recent announcement that it will be leaving the area — the stakes could not be higher for the upcoming decision to repair or replace the bridge.

One reason in particular maritime workers are so concerned is because of the city’s long-term investment in renovating Terminal 5 (T-5) in the port. The renovation has been underway since 2019, and will cost around $300 million to complete. The north cargo bay on T-5 is set to open this spring, with the rest of the terminal opening for business in 2024.

Not only will the T-5 renovation help keep the Port of Seattle as a major point in west coast cargo, (as opposed to British Columbia, which has lately seen an increase in cargo business because of the uncertainty caused by the bridge closure) it will also create more than 6,000 jobs and bring millions of dollars into the region.

The reason the bridge itself is such a cause for concern in relation to this business is because much of the cargo will be transported to and from T-5 by rail — also creating an increase in the number of truck trips required to transport cargo. To reach T-5 and Harbor Island, trucks will need to take the Lower Spokane Street Bridge and West Marginal Way, which are now both congested with residential traffic because of the bridge closure.

John Persac, who speaks for the maritime industry and the MLK Labor Council, suggested that the most important thing for the city to do at this point is put a timeline in place. Whether or not city leadership decides to repair or replace the bridge, the sooner they select a course of action and set a timeline to reopen, the sooner the entire industry can get back to smooth sailing.

This article was originally posted on MyNorthwest by Chris Sullivan.

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