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How a half-billion dollar makeover of Terminal 5 could impact West Seattle

When the massive makeover of Terminal 5 is complete, the world's largest container ships will come to port. West Seattle residents are left wondering about the increased activity.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance approved a massive renovation of Terminal 5 this week. The half-billion dollar project will eventually bring the world's largest container ships to the Port of Seattle. 

But how will the increased activity, traffic, and noise impact West Seattle? 

That's one of the unanswered questions from the splashy agreement approved by the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), chaired by Port of Seattle and Tacoma commissioners.  

The complicated deal includes $340 million from the NWSA, plus millions more from a new terminal operator. The deal will redevelop Terminal 5, which has not been in full use since 2014, into the main container terminal in Seattle. 

Ports of Seattle, Tacoma approve major renovations for Terminal 5

Ships that once docked at Terminal 46 near the stadium district will be rerouted to West Seattle.  The NWSA says the move will reshape the waterfront, and allow the region to host the world’s biggest container ships. The existing "on-dock rail" will mean fewer trucks in and out of the terminal, in theory. 

The move was prompted, in part, by a serious threat from up north. Fairview Container Terminal in British Columbia has quickly expanded and with on-dock rail, has siphoned Puget Sound business. The Canadian terminal expects to grow and allow 1.8 million annual terminal equivalent units, or TEUs, by 2022.

The NWSA hopes to have Phase 1 done by the end of 2021.  There will be dredging and infrastructure improvements. Port of Seattle Commission President Stephanie Bowman says ‘shore power capability’ will make Terminal 5 more environmentally-friendly.

James Wojciechowski of West Seattle has been watching the developments closely, ever since Terminal 5 went dark in 2014.  He’s excited about the economic stability for the region. 

“There are a lot of working families that depend on that activity," he said. But he also is worried about the noise and environmental impacts. 

"Mitigation is our issue. The hull is like a big drum echoing all over the hillside.”  

He's part of a group of Admiral-area residents, along with Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who have raised questions about the noise: 

“What we’re worried about is what’s coming.”

Wojciechowski wonders if what worked in rural Canada will work in urban Seattle. The answers to those questions will play out in the coming years. 

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