SEATTLE -- The Port of Seattle will vote Tuesday to close one of it's biggest container terminals, in a move one port commissioner calls a "must do."
The Commissioners are expected to close Terminal 5, located in West Seattle. The 172-acre property serves five ocean carriers and employs 5,000 people.
Shawna Winkler sees them every day as a waitress at the Chelan Cafe, which is adjacent to the Terminal and has been a local institution for the last 76 years.
"A lot of the workers come here because we are so close, grab a quick sandwich or lunch," she said.
But the Terminal has been operating below capacity and the Port now admits it needs some work.
"Container traffic is down, terminal utilization at the Port of Seattle is down, so it's the perfect time to make an investment," says Port Commissioner John Creighton, who acknowledges the need to to improve the situation. "It's a must do, if we don't continue to invest, we'll be out of business," says Creighton.
Creighton said that if commissioners approve the move next Tuesday, it would open the door for a 5-year, $200 million improvement project. Creighton said the dock needs to be strengthened, and have new cranes brought in and dredging done. Current container activity will be shifted, or consolidated, to Terminal 18.
The Port hopes to attract larger ships.
Last month, KING 5 uncovered documents showing the container traffic was at just 38 percent of capacity, and that consolidation should be considered. Outgoing Port CEO Tay Yoshitani said no options, including a merger with the Port of Tacoma, was off the table.
Creighton characterized the current talks with Tacoma as "positive".
Retired, longtime longshoreman Steve Perkins, who worked at T-5 said the terminal does need to be "renovated" and is in need of new cranes. He worries about the future of the port outside Terminal 5, and 18.
"We're gonna look like Frisco, we'll be a tourist attraction," said Perkins.