Port Continues to Design Its Futureby Kelly Kearsley, The News Tribune
The News Tribune, February 7, 2006
The Port of Tacoma has taken its first step toward developing a new, major marine terminal on the east side of the Blair Waterway, though a customer to use the property has yet to be decided.
The port commission has awarded a $1.2 million contract for the initial design work on what it is calling the East Blair One Terminal.
"We know we'll be building a terminal there," port Commissioner Clare Petrich said Monday. "So it's better to begin the process now so that when we have a customer we'll be ready and prepared to move ahead immediately."
The contract went to the Tacoma office of KPFF Consulting Engineers.
The project is one of several improvements scheduled for - or already completed - on the Blair Waterway. They range from widening the waterway at different spots to renovating and expanding existing shipping terminals. How big the East Blair One Terminal will be remains undecided.
The Port of Tacoma owns 130 acres on the east side of the Blair Waterway, property that includes the defunct Kaiser Aluminum plant and the recently vacated Weyerhaeuser chip center. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians owns about 150 acres adjacent to the port's property, including waterfront land formerly occupied by the Emerald Queen casino.
Put together, the two properties could be the largest shipping terminal north of Los Angeles. The tribe and port have been talking about the potential for a such a megaterminal since 2004. But the two parties haven't reached an agreement on how or whether to progress as partners.
The design work awarded by the port commission focuses only on the port-owned property. It will include initial development plans for a 1,200-foot wharf and adjacent 22-acre terminal, according to information given to the port commission. The first plans will include the concrete wharf, which is where the ships will berth, as well as infrastructure such as the container cranes.
The early design means the port will be able move quickly in a market where several customers already have voiced interest in the property. The port had a similar jump-start on designs for the Pierce County Terminal, which opened about a year ago.
"On one hand, we want to make certain that we are in a position to respond to the market by shortening the delivery time," said Lou Paulsen, the port's senior director of facilities development. "On the other hand, we want to make certain we expend the port's funds prudently."
Tim Farrell, the port's executive director, told commissioners at their last meeting that the design plans can be changed or altered in the future, if needed. Other design phases will follow before the project goes out to bid. "This allows us to get a little bit down the road," Farrell said. "But not so much that we can't make changes."
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