The Port of Seattle Commission updated its 2020 construction plans to boost local COVID-19 economic recovery through project spending and hiring, while enacting public health protocols developed with guidance from state and federal agencies.
The plan continues early actions by the Port to direct as much activity as possible towards immediate COVID-19 recovery. The updated plan commits the Port continue with approximately 20 projects currently under construction, worth approximately $1.5 billion to the local economy. The Port also proposes accelerating and postponing certain projects based on financial considerations.
“As one of the largest public sector builders in the region, the Port is uniquely positioned to help lead the region’s recovery,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Peter Steinbrueck. “Our goal is to help keep construction workers employed by providing certainty to large public works construction projects, accelerating some projects where feasible, and by supporting our private sector partners.”
Construction jobs provide durable, critical infrastructure and well-paying jobs with a strong multiplier effect throughout the economy. Port construction work can directly generate 700 full-time direct construction jobs on average, per month, or 1,300 full-time and part-time jobs. Those jobs support over 1,100 more indirect and induced jobs through a network of suppliers and construction support.
Capital project spending comprises more than half of the Port’s annual budget and provides a major economic boost to the region. The Commission also discussed a framework of early action proposals to further spur Port-related hiring and business opportunities.
The Port Commission will review the five-year capital development plan again this fall when it prepares the 2021 budget. The Port’s 2020 operating budget is $470 million and 2020 capital budget is $640 million.
The Port’s $3.4 billion capital development program, one of the largest in the region, develops and rehabilitates critical aviation and maritime infrastructure to improve operational efficiency, enhances customer service, generates additional economic activity, provides diversity in contracting opportunities for small, women, and minority business enterprises, and reduces environmental impact.
On April 1, 2020, the Port of Seattle Commission passed a motion to support and guide the Executive Director’s evaluation and prioritization of recovery actions to restore, sustain and maximize our aviation and maritime operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure swift regional economic recovery.
The Commission established principles to ensure that the capital program maximize economic impact, prioritizes capital programs with high utilization rates for woman and minority-owned (WMBE) businesses, creates opportunities for small businesses, and advances the Port’s sustainability goals.
Projects for potential acceleration
In its review of 2020 projects, the Port identified projects where it will consider accelerating construction. Accelerating construction could mean performing more project elements simultaneously instead of sequencing to limit impacts to operations, traffic, and passenger experience. Projects where the Port is considering accelerated construction include:
- North Satellite Modernization
- International Arrivals Facility
- Airfield pavement work
- Passenger loading bridges replacement
- Terminal 46 north berth replacement (not related to proposed cruise terminal)
The International Arrivals Facility and the North Satellite modernization are the two largest Port projects under construction and currently provide the vast majority of airport construction jobs, with each project employing hundreds of construction workers. In February 2020, the International Arrivals Facility employed an average of 291 workers per day. The Port works with each contractor to enhance worker safety across all projects. The Port ensures that contractors provide jobsite health and safety plans that respond to public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Port continues to review those plans to ensure they are updated to meet the latest guidance from public health officials and the Governor’s construction panel, which includes a Port representative along with contractor and labor representatives.
Postponed construction projects
The Port also identified projects where it will postpone planning or design work.
The Port will postpone work on the proposed Terminal 46 cruise terminal. The Port needs to better understand the market impact of COVID-19 before proceeding. Commissioners also directed staff to present an evaluation of the Alaska homeport cruise industry and recommendations concerning the resumption of the project as part of the upcoming capital budget process. The analysis will consider impacts of COVID-19 on the industry’s 2020 cruise season, health and safety regulatory requirements, industry and market forecasts, and economic benefit.
“The last twenty years proved the demand for the Alaska cruise market, which we believe is resilient and will return,” said Executive Director Steve Metruck. “With global cruising on pause right now, it’s appropriate that we consider coming back to this project in the future when we have a clearer picture of the market.”
In other cases, the financial conditions are not right to advance current work, or the best outcome may be to conserve short-term spending and return to the project in the future. There are more than 90 projects in the airport’s construction pipeline, which includes projects in planning, design, or pre-construction. The Port is carefully considering which projects to move ahead in light of the current economic situation caused by the pandemic.