Reopening of the West Seattle Bridge might be delayed by concrete drivers union strike; If not resolved by Feb 20 a delay is certain
The concrete driver's union strike, comprised of 300 workers and six companies may well delay the reopening of the West Seattle Bridge. The strike which began in November with just 34 drivers has now stretched on for more than 60 days. The strike is over medical benefits. The effects of the strike is leading to layoffs as construction stops on a range of projects around the Seattle area.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, & Convention Center Lead Matt Griffin are united in putting pressure on ending the strike.
The Seattle Department of Transportation said in a press release:
The West Seattle Bridge program requires specialized concrete that is essential to forming the blocks and structures inside the high bridge that are integral to the post-tensioning system that will provide added strength before we re-open the bridge. Concrete is also needed for overlay, expansion joints, and sign bridge bases.
If concrete is not available by Feb. 20, there will be a schedule delay to the repairs for the West Seattle Bridge, absent other interventions. The length of the delay will depend on the length of the strike; the longer the delay, the later the bridge would reopen to traffic.
The bridge's first concrete pour must begin on Feb. 20 to maintain the current project repair schedule at the current 6 day/10 hour effort.
King County in a press release today said:
"With ongoing labor disputes jeopardizing construction projects around the region, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the county is seeking one or more suppliers of concrete building materials to ensure projects can resume without further delays and disruptions. County projects like the RapidRide H expansion and the Georgetown stormwater facility have been delayed, along with numerous other public and private construction projects.
King County published a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) this week, seeking to guarantee a supply of concrete to meet the needs of County construction projects over the next three to six years. This RFQ is the first time the County is requesting proposals directly from construction material suppliers, and winning bidders will have the opportunity to lock in a contract with the County that’s worth $28M to $35M for the first three to four years. One of the qualifications to obtain the contract is to have an agreement in place that prevents work stoppages and employer lockouts to prevent future impacts to construction. Other public entities will be able to mirror the King County proposal and use similar qualifications.
“With transit improvements stalled and construction sites gone quiet, the impact of the labor dispute is leaving people out of work and taxpayers suffering delays in the critical infrastructure that the region needs built now,” said Executive Constantine. “Our proposal today seeks to protect the public’s interest by providing economic certainty to suppliers who treat workers fairly and keep our infrastructure projects moving forward.”
Other government entities, public agencies, and private companies have also been adversely impacted by the recent concrete strike. Construction delays or stoppages have happened on Sound Transit’s light rail expansion, WSDOT’s 520 Bridge Montlake interchange and 405 expansion, the City of Seattle’s West Seattle Bridge project, and the Washington State Convention Center expansion project. Private projects such as Microsoft’s campus modernization project, affordable housing, and market rate housing projects have also seen delays.
"Repair of the West Seattle Bridge remains one of the city's highest priorities. While the Seattle Department of Transportation, contractors, and community partners have worked tirelessly to keep the West Seattle Bridge reopening on track for mid-2022, this continued strike threatens to delay that schedule, as well as impact many other major City of Seattle projects. For an on-time opening, concrete companies and workers must return to mediation and reach a fair agreement – further delay and uncertainty is untenable for hundreds of thousands of neighbors across West Seattle, our city, and the entire region," said Mayor of Seattle Bruce Harrell.
“The inability to get concrete to Sound Transit job sites is causing serious delays to needed transit expansions and pushing construction workers into unemployment” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “On Sound Transit’s projects alone, we’ve missed more than 2,200 deliveries, equivalent to a line of concrete trucks more than 14.5 miles long. Our contractors have laid off more than 200 workers, and another 165 jobs are threatened. It’s critical that the parties to this dispute work together to negotiate a resolution. If that doesn’t happen quickly enough, this procurement that King County is leading will provide us with a potential tool to help us get our projects back on track and our workers back on the job.”
"On the Washington State Convention Center, the lack of concrete has already delayed the opening more than a month," said Matt Griffin of the Pine Street Group who is the developer of the project's addition. "This has caused the contractor to reduce the workforce by about 150 jobs. It's sad to see these people out of work, as the community is trying to rebound from the pandemic."
In addition to those mentioned earlier, there are two King County projects that are also currently impacted by the ongoing labor dispute including segments of the East Lake Sammamish Trail and the Loop Vehicle Maintenance Facility. There are a handful of other projects that, while they have not been directly affected yet, could be impacted soon, such as the Lower Russell Levee, improvements and repairs at West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, and Cedar Hills Landfill. All nine King County projects total roughly 850 yards of concrete needs presently or in the near future.
“Concrete is quite literally the foundation of our region’s infrastructure, and it’s clear the impacts of this labor dispute are far reaching. Without these construction projects, our region will fall behind at a time when we need to push further and faster,” added Executive Constantine. “All parties need to get back to the negotiating table quickly and resolve the dispute so everyone in King County can get back to work building our future.”
Mayor Harrell said in a press release:
Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that the region’s contract strike would delay the reopening schedule for the West Seattle Bridge program if it continues past February 20. The potential delay is due to the need this month for specialized concrete inside the bridge for critical post-tensioning work, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation's (SDOT) construction timeline.
“Repair of the West Seattle bridge remains one of the City of Seattle’s highest priorities. While the Seattle Department of Transportation, contractors, and community partners have worked tirelessly to keep the West Seattle Bridge reopening on track for mid-2022, this continued strike threatens to delay that schedule,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “For an on-time opening, concrete companies and workers must return to mediation and reach a fair agreement – further delay and uncertainty is untenable for hundreds of thousands of neighbors across West Seattle, our city, and the entire region.”
While other areas of repair on the bridge can continue, and while SDOT has worked closely with contractors to reorder the repair process and minimize potential delays, the West Seattle Bridge program requires concrete for completion. Work includes the specialized concrete blocks and structures to hold new steel cables, which are essential to strengthen the bridge. The length of a possible schedule delay would be determined by the length of the strike.
Projects across City of Seattle departments are being impacted by the concrete strike, including other SDOT priorities, as nearly all SDOT work requires concrete at some point. Other key projects that have, or may have, schedule impacts or where key milestones may not be met include:
- Waterfront Seattle Program
- Madison Street RapidRide G Line
- Ship Canal Water Quality Control Project
- Vision Zero 23rd Avenue Corridor
- American with Disabilities Act Improvements citywide, including curb ramp and sidewalk installation
SDOT and the West Seattle Bridge contractor have reordered the sequence of work activities on the West Seattle Bridge to respond to the strike. The original schedule called for concrete early this month. In response, they adapted the approach to reduce the number of concrete deliveries to the bridge. Unfortunately, even with this adaption, the contractor would still need specialized concrete inside the bridge for critical post-tensioning work by February 20 to maintain the repair schedule at the current 6-day a week/10-hour a day level of effort.
While the circumstances, level of impact on projects and communities, and length of delay are unique for each project, all will ultimately require concrete delivery to move forward. Schedule delays can also lead to additional costs due to construction inefficiencies, extra site maintenance, change order processes and more.
“I have met with Teamsters representatives and leaders at the concrete companies on multiple occasions to stress the incredibly urgent need to come together and reach a resolution – this contractual dispute has unprecedented implications for the future of our city and the people who call it home,” said Mayor Harrell. “We support King County’s and other regional partners’ efforts to address this issue, and Seattle is exploring an array of potential emergency responses. That said, the most effective solution for all parties is simply for business and labor to reach a just agreement and for the strike to end.”
Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park)
“The West Seattle Bridge is a critical lifeline not just for West Seattle residents and businesses, but for the entire region. Completing bridge repairs by mid-2022 as scheduled is our paramount responsibility.
“This closure has affected all of us. Our access to the rest of the city has been disrupted and delayed, businesses have been cut off from customers and their workers. Traffic detours through communities on the southern portion of the peninsula are becoming more and more unbearable.
“The number of trucks using the (lower) Spokane Street Bridge across the Duwamish increased when Terminal 5 re-opened last month. This adds to the urgency of moving other vehicle traffic back on to the West Seattle Bridge as soon as possible.
“We are just 245 yards – fewer than 30 truckloads – from the finish line. I call on concrete suppliers to reach agreement with Teamsters Local 174 as soon as possible to ensure completion of the West Seattle Bridge repair is as scheduled.”
Councilmember Alex Pedersen, chair of the City’s Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee:
“Vital transportation projects needed for our safety and mobility -- as well as the scarce tax dollars allocated to fund them -- are sitting idle and becoming at risk due to this excessively long concrete strike and so I believe all of Seattle would benefit if everyone got back to the negotiating table to resolve this labor dispute as soon as possible.”
Interim SDOT Director Kristen Simpson:
“Concrete is an essential part of our many construction projects and a core component of our City’s transportation infrastructure. SDOT’s concrete work ranges from ongoing repair and maintenance of streets to constructing new curb ramps to building major projects like the Waterfront Seattle Program. While this is a challenging time for everyone involved, SDOT supports a fair resolution among the parties. In the near term, we’re continuing work that doesn’t require concrete and partnering with our contractors to reorder the sequence of work activities to minimize project completion delays. We remain hopeful a resolution is near.”