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Port Of Seattle's Projects To Help The Region Handle Population, Economic Growth

Business at Seattle's port and the Sea-Tac Airport is growing, and port leaders are finding strategic ways to meet the needs for expanded facilities through various projects.

"The port plays an important role in providing the robust national and international trade and transportation connections relied on by Seattle and this region," Port of Seattle Senior Director of Capital Development Ralph Graves said.

Rendering of the North Satellite facility modernization

Next year, the Port of Seattle plans to announce its master plan to build out the airport to meet demand for the next 20 years, Graves said.

"Demand for gates at the airport outpaces our ability to construct new ones," he said.

For now, that means some passengers have to board planes by going up stairs outdoors. To accommodate those passengers, the airport is establishing a waiting room in Q2 so passengers can wait and board buses to their planes, he said.

The next step for the airport includes two big terminal projects under construction. The International Arrivals Facility is scheduled to open in late 2019, and the renovation and expansion of the 45-year-old North Satellite facility, a $697.8M project, is scheduled to finish in Q3 2021.

The Sea-Tac Airport has the largest share of air passengers and cargo for the region, Graves said.

"The population and economy here are growing fast, so domestic and international air connections are essential," he said.

Port of Seattle Senior Director of Capital Development Ralph Graves

At the port, the Northwest Seaport Alliance — a JV of the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma — is redeveloping Terminal 5 to handle the largest container ships, Graves said. That $287M project could start in 2018 once a deal with a tenant operator is set, he said.

The project will not only increase container volume, but also maritime jobs in the region. Ships with a capacity for more than 10,000 20-foot container units are now calling at West Coast ports, and those with a capacity for 18,000 units can be expected in the near future, according to the Northwest Seaport Alliance.

Port of Seattle's Pier 66

The port's Pier 66 project is recognized as an example of a successful public-private partnership. The Port of Seattle joined with Norwegian Cruise Lines to redevelop the pier to handle larger cruise ships, a project completed between the 2016 and 2017 cruise seasons. With 218 cruise ships scheduled to call at the Port of Seattle in the 2017 cruise season, Seattle is the biggest cruise port on the West Coast, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports. Graves said NCL signed a 15-year lease agreeing to split the $30M cost of construction. NCL contracted the work, and the port was a part of the design review and construction coordination, he said.

"As in any other partnership, the sides each bring objectives and priorities," he said. "In this case, we used a lease to assign costs, benefits and risks to the parties. A particular benefit was that NCL could employ private sector contracting and move more quickly than the port could do under public sector laws. Yet the parties agreed to meet the labor, social and environmental goals of the port."

Hear more from Graves and other experts at Bisnow's Seattle's Emerging Markets event Dec. 12 at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle.