Jobs in the balance: SoDo jobs, small businesses, industry squeezed by proposed arena location

Jobs in the balance: SoDo jobs, small businesses, industry squeezed by proposed arena location

The Port of Seattle Commission heard from experts in transportation, maritime economics, and land use who performed an intermediate analysis of how the proposed arena would impact port operations. The three reports tell a compelling story: The traffic congestion and pressure on industrial businesses brought by a third sports facility in SoDo could squeeze out small business, disrupt port operations, and limit the potential for the port growth that generates family-wage jobs. Experts estimate that three to four of every ten jobs in Washington are dependent on trade.

The expert panel noted several key issues that must be addressed:

  • Port terminal operations are significantly impacted on game days, even when games start at 7:00 p.m., because game traffic makes reaching terminals difficult for trucks.
  • Port customers choose their gateway based largely on cost, and transit time is a major component of that cost. Congestion increases transit time and costs and makes the gateway less attractive for customers – in what is an increasingly competitive environment.
  • SoDo’s well-documented traffic management issues will only worsen the situation.
  • The nearly 60,000 jobs in the Duwamish Manufacturing Industrial Center exist because of proximity to port terminals. When industrial businesses are squeezed out by other land uses like entertainment, they must relocate farther out – increasing the cost of doing business.
  • When customers go elsewhere, the region will lose jobs.

“People’s jobs are at stake here. Let’s take the time to analyze the full impacts and the trade-offs that will be made if the arena is built in SoDo,” said Commissioner Bill Bryant.
Commissioners passed a motion noting that over a billion dollars of public and private investments have already been spent to improve freight corridors and port infrastructure, and these investments will be undermined by another SoDo sports facility unless transportation impacts can be mitigated. The commission motion “opposes the signing of binding commitments for the siting of a sports facility in the SoDo neighborhood prior to completing a full programmatic EIS.”

The port commissioned the studies as intermediate analyses designed to show what we know and what we don’t know about the impacts the proposed development. More thorough analysis is still needed.

About the expert panel:
Marni Heffron, PE, PTOE, has over 25 years of experience as a transportation engineer. She has led transportation studies for some of the largest development and infrastructure projects in Seattle and at the Port of Seattle, including the Alaskan Way Viaduct Review for Holgate-to-King project; the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91; and the Mercer Corridor Stakeholder Agreement.

Paul Sorenson, Principal of BST Associates, has been a leader in planning, economic and financial assessments of transportation projects for 35 years. He served as project manager for the Marine Cargo Forecasts prepared for the Washington Public Ports Association and WSDOT for six separate reports since 1991, and has done similar projects for ports in California, Oregon, Alaska, and the Pacific Islands. He has also performed assessments of the supply and demand of waterfront industrial properties in several counties across Washington state.

Peter Steinbrueck of Steinbrueck Urban Strategies has many years of experience in land use and zoning, urban design, public policy, and urban planning. Projects include Seattle Children’s Hospital Master Plan; WSDOT’s Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program; and the City of Philadelphia’s Central Delaware Riverfront Vision. In addition, Steinbrueck served as a member of the Seattle City Council from 1997 – 1007, and chaired the committee which developed the current Stadium Overlay District.