Wave of good results buoys new port alliance

Originally published August 6, 2016 at 8:00 am Updated August 6, 2016 at 12:26 pm
Crews work at the Port of Tacoma in 2015. Now, with Seattle and Tacoma ports operated together under the Northwest Seaport Alliance, this is known as the South Harbor. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times)Crews work at the Port of Tacoma in 2015. Now, with Seattle and Tacoma ports operated together under the Northwest Seaport Alliance, this is known as the South Harbor. Seattle’s seaport is now called the North Harbor. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times)
Seattle and Tacoma ports combined container operations a year ago, replacing zero-sum competition with cooperation.

First things first. The seaport of the Port of Seattle is now called the North Harbor. At the Port of Tacoma, it’s the South Harbor.

This renaming, used by everyone from port commissioners to line employees, is more than symbolism as the Northwest Seaport Alliance marks its first year. It shows how far the two ports have come from decades of blood-sport competition to joining operations.

Thus it was appropriate that the first mega-container ship to visit the Alliance, calling at the North Harbor, was named the Benjamin Franklin.

After American independence was declared, this Founding Father said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

While British gallows didn’t await the rival Puget Sound ports, declining market share most assuredly did, and was likely to get worse.

The Alliance, agreed to in 2014, gives equal voting power to each port commission. Neither port nor county “lost,” an important element to securing cooperation.

John Wolfe, the capable boss of the Port of Tacoma, was named chief executive of the Northwest Seaport Alliance. His top operations deputy, Kurt Beckett, came from the Port of Seattle.

“This has never been done before,” said Connie Bacon, president of the Port of Tacoma Commission. “What the two ports have done is new. There was no book about how to do it. Now we can look back and see it’s a working success.”

Indeed, no modern precedents exist for two large, rival ports to willingly combine container operations. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, dating to 1921, is the closest analogy, but the seaports weren’t equal at the time and the entity now encompasses much more than container traffic. Authorities in Georgia and Virginia were established top-down by state legislatures.

John Creighton, president of the Port of Seattle Commission, said, “Going into any new venture where you had fierce competitors, we expected many more hiccups.” Yet they were few.

 “The commissions are working well together,” Creighton said. “We took a year and a half to hammer it out. That let commissioners and staff build trust and confidence.”

While one snapshot does not signal a turnaround, the combined seaports saw their best month ever in June. They also performed better than California ports last year and are receiving new traffic with the end of container service to Portland.

Combined, the Alliance markets itself as “the fourth-largest container gateway for containerized cargo shipping between Asia and … the Midwest, Ohio Valley and the East Coast.”

It also connects to the second-largest concentration of distribution centers along the West Coast. Bulk, breakbulk (cargo as separate pieces), project/heavy-lift cargoes and vehicles are also major operations.

 Sliced another way, in the Journal of Commerce’s 2015 rankings of inbound and outbound traffic, the two harbors constituted the sixth-largest container port in North America.

Hanging together brings advantages beyond ending the zero-sum game of competing for container lines.

 For example, when the Grand Alliance and Hamburg Sud lines left Seattle for Tacoma before the Alliance was formed, it was a painful loss for Seattle. With the agreement, capacity issues in Tacoma — oops, the South Harbor — were fixed by moving some of the container vessels to terminals in the North Harbor.

The “trip to the bottom” price competition, as Bacon calls it, is over. She calls the Alliance “a very good financial outcome for both ports. Now we can deliver best possible service at market rate or better.”

A new operations center keeps watch over both harbors, terminals, road and rail connections, and outreach to the large web of stakeholders. For example, if a bottleneck appears, the ops center responds. It measures efficiency and reliability.

The Alliance is also better able to make strategic investments. The North Harbor has one terminal that can handle megaships. South Harbor’s Terminal 4 is undergoing $141 million in improvements, with four cranes that can handle two megaships at once. Terminal 5 in the North Harbor — scene of Shell drilling-rig protests — is being reconfigured to take two big ships simultaneously.

In addition, the combination has allowed the Alliance to speak with one voice to cities and the Legislature on such issues as transportation.

This was a nick-of-time coming together. The Alliance was formed before the big drop in shipping brought about by slower growth in Asia and the consolidation of shipping lines. But when a rebound comes, so will the megaships. And the Alliance intends to be ready.

Although the wider Panama Canal is open, Wolfe said he expected little effect in the short term. “My take is that beyond our local market, our market is the Upper Midwest and Ohio Valley. (It’s) more challenging to serve that through the Panama Canal. More costly, too. So we don’t feel as threatened. Our primary competition is the Canada gateways.”

In addition to Vancouver, B.C., the fifth-busiest North American port, Prince Rupert boasts the shortest sailing distance from many points in Asia and a straight shot to the Midwest on the Canadian National Railway.

I’ve never bought the notion that Seattle’s port is analogous to San Francisco and on the way out, while Tacoma is comparable to Oakland, as the region’s viable port. San Francisco was done in by a variety of factors, including the shift to moving seaborne cargo by containers.

As long as we have the 10,000-mile supply chain, both the North and South Harbors are needed. They are the foundation of trade that supports 40 percent of the state’s family-wage jobs.

And thanks to the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the region is in its best condition to compete in a long time.

Bertha’s on track, but this is the easy part

THURSDAY 23, JUNE 2016

Bertha’s making progress. Credit: WSDOT

At Nijo Sushi on Western and Spring, people eat lunch as the world’s largest tunnel boring machine chews the earth directly beneath them, making its way toward South Lake Union.

None know it’s down there. When they learn, none care. One hadn’t ever heard of Bertha. “Hi, Bertha!” said one woman, waving at the ground.

For all the issues around Bertha, apathy is a Christmas gift for WSDOT and tunnel contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners. The tunnel should be done by now. But it’s faced a two year delay, its repair resulted in one of the world’s most precarious elevated highways to settle, and created a really big sinkholein the ground (250 cubic feet big) on the waterfront. Still, as the lunchtime diners picked through the pieces of their bento boxes, they weren’t nervous.

But since April, the tunnel has been merrily moving along, at a pace of just over 40 feet per day. As of this week, the machine has gone about 1,400 feet, doubling the distance it traveled before the it broke down. Tunnel engineers like to measure progress in tunnel rings, and as of Wednesday, the machine was averaging 7 per day, the pace it’s supposed to hit.

The head of STP, Chris Dixon, is supremely confident in Bertha. “The repairs to the [tunnel boring machine] were successful,” he proclaims.

However, there are still two phrases that should keep our tunnel-advocate mayor, Ed Murray, up at night: “overheating” and “losing ground control.” The former was what broke the machine the first time, although no one will admit why. The latter is the worst case scenario beneath downtown, with “losing ground control” meaning sinkholes.

Dixon says his crews have seen no ground movement at all, and that the machine is functioning at a normal temperature. But to be a little bit of a buzzkill, the machine just completed a relatively simple section of tunneling, going downhill (at a 1.6 percent grade) and moving through solid clay, which is ideal for this particular model of machine.

The future is a tad trickier. After flattening out for a little bit, the machine has begun to head toward the surface at a 1.4 percent grade. That will increase first to a 3.6 percent grade, then to 4 percent. Moving upward puts more stress on the machine, but Dixon promises the machine has plenty of capacity left in its tank and should be able to handle it.

Furthermore, the machine will move out of cushy clay and into sand and gravel. Bertha functions by maintaining pressure at its face. That’s harder to do in loose and variable soils. Again, Dixon says not to worry, that the soil shouldn’t be anything the machine can’t handle.

The machine has been refurbished by Hitachi Zosen, and there are a lot more eyes on how it’s functioning now than there were before. The state lost trust in STP, and now has their own people attending the project’s morning progress meetings.

But assurances aside, echoes of confidence in the past ring loudly in the ears of anyone who hoped to be driving underground by now. Dixon himself has said things will not go wrong and then they’ve proceeded to go wrong. Assurances from the project don’t mean as much as they used to.

Curbing Airbnb

Property owners react to proposed rules as Seattle struggles with housing affordability

BY  on June 9, 2016 at 10:39 am

(GeekWire Photo)
A billboard over Seattle’s Ballard Bridge touts Airbnb to homeowners. (GeekWire Photo)When Jordan Schwartz converted his basement mother-in-law apartment in Seattle from a long-term rental to an Airbnb listing, he more than doubled his annual earnings. The huge gains motivated him to turn another apartment, in a three-unit building he owns, into an Airbnb rental, as well.

“We converted one of the units to Airbnb last year, and immediately tripled our income,” said Schwartz, the CEO of Seattle startup Pathable. “As tenants move out, we’re converting the others as well. The second one comes online on Airbnb at the end of this week.”

Pathable CEO Jason Schwartz with the mother-in-law unit he rents on Airbnb.

Pathable CEO Jordan Schwartz with the mother-in-law unit he rents on Airbnb.But those plans may be thwarted by new regulations, proposed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Tim Burgess, aiming to put new restrictions on short-term rentals like those facilitated by Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO.

The proposal splits short-term rental operators into two groups — homeowners who occupy the properties they rent out, and property owners renting out residences they do not occupy. The latter group, Burgess and Murray contend, run their rentals more like a business than a “casual” way to earn extra cash.

If the city enacts the new regulations, short-term rental operators who don’t use their properties as primary residences could not rent them out for more than 90 days per year. The regulations would also require property owners and short-term rentals platforms to obtain new types of licenses. The proposal defines short-term rentals as non-hotel bookings of 29 nights or fewer.

Airbnb and HomeAway — the Expedia-owned vacation rental network that includes VRBO and similar sites — are the titans of the short-term rental industry. They have been growing rapidly in recent years, taking a considerable chunk of business from traditional hotels. The platforms, which allow property owners to rent out rooms and entire units to peers, comprise a new multi-billion dollar industry known as “alternative accommodations.”

Burgess and Murray are concerned that property owners, compelled by lucrative Airbnb listings, are taking housing inventory off the market by converting units into short-term rentals. They believe the proposed regulations will discourage landlords from operating hotel-like businesses where they would otherwise provide long-term rentals for residents. They hope curbing Airbnb and VRBO will help address Seattle’s housing affordability crisis, driven largely by the city’s tech boom.

The proposed regulations have ignited a major debate among Seattle residents and property owners.

Schwartz, for one, has mixed feelings about the changes. “This law would obviously hammer my rental property, but I get it, and don’t necessarily oppose it,” he said. “I’m taking affordable apartments off the market and renting them through Airbnb. That’s bad for Seattle. So, OK.”

Though the rules would have the desired effect on Schwartz, not everyone is convinced that they’re the right approach. GeekWire asked Airbnb operators in Seattle what they think of the proposed regulations and what impact they expect to see.

Impact on Airbnb operators

The intention behind the proposal is to reduce commercially operated short-term rentals while still allowing individuals to rent out their properties or spare rooms on a “casual” basis. But some homeowners say they’re discouraged by the new licensing system.

Betsy Bell rents a spare room in her West Seattle cottage.

Betsy Bell rents a spare room in her West Seattle cottage.Take Betsy Bell, a West Seattle resident who rents out her spare room because she’s on a fixed retirement income and enjoys the company. Because she is the primary resident of the property she rents, the 90-day limit would not apply to her. She would, however, be required to obtain a business license. Because Bell rents her spare room for more than 90 days — about 200 per year — she would also need to get a new Short Term Rental Operator license. Requirements for that include proof that the unit is a primary residence, liability insurance, a local contact number for guests, a signed declaration the unit is up to code, and compliance with safety ordinances.

“I feel the regulations are excessive for homeowners like me,” she said. “Widows who want to stay in their homes (like me) and may have fixed retirement income and want the occasional company a guest provides, might find getting a business license challenging. I can see the value of regulating people who have moved out of their houses and the whole place becomes a cash-generating mini hotel, and the people taking rental units out of the long term rental market in an apartment building.”

The licensing process is also discouraging for Eric Jewett, vice president at Seattle startup SkyKick. He and his wife bought their house in 2014, with the intention of renting out the basement mother-in-law long-term. They were dismayed to find out the property lacked the necessary permit for long-term rentals and posted the unit to Airbnb in 2015. He says that even though his property likely meets the requirements for a short-term rental license, the process is too onerous for individual homeowners.

“We also want the flexibility for our parents to stay there due to the upcoming birth of our son, so we do not want it permanently rented out,” he said. “Therefore, we would likely take it off the market if the restrictions become too burdensome.”

Despite these concerns, Burgess insists the new regulations are designed to protect casual short-term renters, while restricting commercial operations.

Tim Burgess.

Tim Burgess“It is clearly providing economic benefits to hosts,” the council member told GeekWire in an interview. “We don’t want to interfere with that but we do want to regulate commercial enterprises that are converting large numbers of Seattle homes to short-term rentals, instead of the long-term rentals that they are today. That’s where I think the city’s compelling interest comes into play. … How do we protect our long-term rental housing stock while at the same time allowing homeowners to earn some extra money by taking advantage of these rental platforms and the service they provide?”

It’s a difficult question to answer. The experiences of Jewett, Bell, and Schwartz show how challenging it is to protect one group, while restricting another, when everyone involved is using the same technology and model. But Schwartz’s case is one example of the intended law’s effect.

“If the regulations are passed as is, I’ll continue to rent my primary residence mother-in-law apartment on Airbnb, but take the three-unit apartment building units and convert those back from Airbnb units to long-term rentals,” he explained.

Regulation in Seattle

Between its liberal politics, booming tech and business sectors, and early adoption of disruptive technologies, Seattle poses unique challenges for enacting regulation. The debate over the proposed short-term rental rules (and past attempts to regulate gig economy services) demonstrates the conflicting interests of many of the city’s residents.

Greg Gottesman.

Greg GottesmanIn a satirical commentary on GeekWire last week, Pioneer Square Labs co-founder Greg Gottesman criticized the new rules by suggesting some extreme restrictions on other technologies.

“To curb obesity in our city, we should limit the number of OpenTable reservations Seattleites can make to one per month,” he quipped. “To lower the divorce rate in Seattle, we should cap the number of Tinder swipes within city limits to 15 per month.”

Many in the tech and business communities share Gottesman’s sentiments that the proposed regulations miss the mark. But residents squeezed by the competitive rental market are looking to Seattle lawmakers to provide some relief.

“There are an estimated four to five thousand Seattle homes, whether that’s a condo or an apartment unit or a private residence, that are being offered on these rental platforms today,” said Burgess. “Airbnb tells us that since 2009, their volume of users has doubled each year, so we know that this a large, growing sector.”

Burgess says that about 80 percent of short-term rental operators (those renting units for fewer than 90 days per year) won’t be affected by the changes. His intention is to target the 20 percent of property owners who are operating like commercial lodging.

Schwartz, one of those property owners, believes the new rules will help ease Seattle’s housing affordability woes.

“Free Market Me says, ‘Hey, it’s my property, I should be able to rent it however I want,’ but Social Justice Me says, ‘This is good for the community and in my enlightened best interest.’ Net-net, I’ve got to side with Social Justice Me,” he said.

Free Market Me says, ‘Hey, it’s my property, I should be able to rent it however I want,’ but Social Justice Me says, ‘This is good for the community and in my enlightened best interest.’ Net-net, I’ve got to side with Social Justice Me.Jewett, on the other hand, thinks the new rules are just for show.

“The proposed regulations seem to be purely a political ploy to attempt to demonstrate the city council cares about people struggling with rising rents,” he said. “I don’t think they will have any impact on rising rents, and there are many other actions the city could take that would have a larger impact.”

Privacy concerns

Under the new policies, companies like Airbnb and VRBO would be required to turn over some data to the city in order to obtain a new regulatory license. They would be required to provide names and addresses of rental operators and the number of nights the operator has rented on the platform, over the previous 12 months, on a quarterly basis.

Robert Callahan, Executive Director of The Internet Association, a non-profit lobby that fights online regulation, is concerned about the implications of this measure.

“Individuals have a valid expectation online that their information will not be turned over to government enforcement agencies without cause,” he said. “This proposal flips this tenet of privacy on its head, by requiring online platforms to regularly turn over information on their users just to do business in Seattle. This is an inappropriate approach to enforcement, with broader negative implications for the internet economy.”

Burgess says the data is no different than information businesses in Seattle are already required to provide. He does not believe the privacy concerns are germane to the issue.

“The city is not going to be seeking information on guests or people who are using the service and staying in a property that’s been advertised on Airbnb,” he said. “But like we do with any city business license holder, we’re going to know about the host or the operator.”

Still, the data requirement has some Seattle short-term rental operators, like Jewett, up in arms.

The proposed regulations seem to be purely a political ploy to attempt to demonstrate the city council cares about people struggling with rising rents. I don’t think they will have any impact on rising rents, and there are many other actions the city could take that would have a larger impact.“I am not aware of hotels or landlords being required to provide this information to the city and see it as a gross abuse of power and completely unnecessary,” he said.

Perhaps because Schwartz has operated his rentals commercially (rather than casually) all along, he isn’t uncomfortable with the city requesting this information from Airbnb.

“If I were operating a restaurant, I’m sure I would have to tell the city where the restaurant was to get the license,” he said. “So I don’t see a problem with the city knowing where I’m operating a lodging rental business.”

The Seattle City Council will hold its first discussion of the proposed rules at a meeting of the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee — of which Burgess is the chair — on June 15. The Council tentatively plans to vote on the proposal in late July.

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Monica Nickelsburg handles a variety of editorial roles, including social media, site production, and the Geek Life beat. Originally from Southern California, she studied journalism and history at NYU before landing in Seattle. She loves arts, pop-culture, and her adopted city. Follow her @mnickelsburg

SEATTLE’S 11 BEST DRINKING NEIGHBORHOODS

By BRADLEY FOSTER

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Sure, we have the best-named streetcar line ever, and two whole new light rail stations… but Seattle’s public transportation still kind of sucks. This means that in addition to minor inconveniences like incredibly bad traffic congestion — or the highest public parking fees in the country — residents of The Town have a real problem: unless you want to shell out half your paycheck for an Uber back home, when you go out drinking you pretty much have to pick one neighborhood. And stay there. Luckily, we’re here to help reduce the impact of this terrible public policy failure… by ranking the 11 best drinking neighborhoods in Seattle.

11. The University District
As long as you stay away from places that specialize in slinging cheap beers to college students (looking at you Earl’s on the Ave), and stick to venerable drinking establishments like the College Inn Pub or the Blue Moon, you’ll be in good hands. Speaking of Blue Moon, it’s not only one of the oldest bars in Seattle, and one of the best dive bars in country, it was a favorite of Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, and Roethke.

10. The International District
No matter how much light we shed on say, the best places to eat in the ID, Seattle’s version Chinatown can be a confusing and an intimidating place to go drinking. Well, until you’re posted up at Fort St. George late night downing Youshoku-style eats (Japanese takes on western dishes like spaghetti topped with roe), along with cheap & stiff cocktails like the gin/fruit Momotaro, aka the mythical Japanese hero Peach Boy. Trust us, go here and you’ll wonder why you even went drinking anywhere else.

9. Queen Anne
The top of Queen Anne is essentially an upscale island floating above the city, and inhabited by surprisingly hard drinking young professionals who, when they’re not prowling the ‘hoods safeway (once named the best place in Seattle to meet singles) are posted up in boozers that have seemingly been there forever. Mostly ’cause they do a pretty darn good job of it.

8. West Seattle
West Seattle’s really three different neighborhoods: there’s Alki, which is lined with mostly divey beach hangs that more than make up for their lack of sophistication with sprawling patios — or roof decks. Then there’s the Admiral District and the Junction on either end of California Ave, where you’ll find friendly pubs of all types ranging from some of Seattle’s best beer bars (Beveridge Place, Prost!), to a Mexican restaurant (Mission) that’ll gladly make you one of the best margaritas in the city.

7. Phinney Ridge/Greenwood
We’re kind of cheating by combining these two ‘hoods, but what’s a trip across 85th between friends? Especially when, together, they’ve got everything from award-winning breweries (Naked City), to old-school dives like Sully’s Snowgoose Saloon, classic beer bars (74th Street, Über Tavern), and a ton of other interesting spots like The Yard, with its sprawling, uh, yard out front. And let’s not forget the school-themed Teachers Lounge.

6. Lower Queen Anne
No, we’re not calling this neighborhood “Uptown” no matter how hard city officials try and make us, and quite frankly they must have been doing a lot of drinking at Peso’s — which sells more booze than any other bar in the state — if they ever thought we would. Seriously.

5. Fremont
Bar-wise, let’s break it down: Quoin is attached to one of Seattle’s best restaurants, and serves said restaurant’s hard to get ramen every day during happy hour; Brouwer’s is one of the city’s best beer bars, and Fremont Brewing is probably The Town’s top brew maker. But honestly, we prefer the ‘hood’s quirkier spots like Add-a-Ball amusements, which is ostensibly a basement filled with old arcade games that happens to sell beer, or Woodsky’s, which is a (inexplicably) skiing-themed sports bar complete with four-person shot skis.

4. Pioneer Square
Fifteen years ago Pioneer Square would have topped this list. No doubt. And it is still a GREAT place to go drinking on game days (don’t miss Quality Athletics or Fuel), or after work (Intermezzo Carmine or E. Smith Mercantile are a treat), but sadly it is not nearly the late-night destination it used to be. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some seriously good bars (the subterranean Pharmacy might be one of the most underrated spots in the city) though, or that you can’t still head to the J&M and party like it’s 1999 ’til close.

3. Belltown
As long as you skip the more touristy First Ave in favor of the three or four block strip along Second — where you can find everything from boisterous bars (Rabbit Hole) and refined drinking establishments (Clever Bottle), to serious cocktail slingers (Bathtub Gin, The Upstairs) and seriously popular spots (Wakefield Bar, Bell + Whete) — you’ll have yourself a great night. Especially if you end it at Seattle’s best dive, The 5 Point. Breakfast happy hour anyone?

2. Capitol Hill
The problem with Capitol Hill? There are too many great bars, spread over too large an area. Seriously, it should be divided into around six neighborhoods: Melrose, where The Still and Sun Liquor aren’t to be missed; Summit (Single Shot and the other Sun Liquor); Olive Way, which packs Montana, Knee High Stocking Co., and more into just a few blocks; Broadway, which we’ve been over already, 15th Ave (Liberty!), and yes, Pike/Pine, because it’s not like you can pass on Canon, one of America’s best whiskey bars in America, or Tavern Law, or… you get the idea.

1. Ballard
Just walk up the tree-lined Ballard Ave and you’ll find a cocktail bar helmed by Seattle’s hottest chef (Barnacle), a two-story sports bar (The Loft), the oldest Irish pub in the city (Conor Byrne), one of the city’s best cocktails bars masquerading as a Scottish pub (Macleod’s), a slew of refined drinking establishments (Percy’s, The Sexton), destination bars (Bastille), and old-school dives (Tractor Tavern, Hattie’s Hat), PLUS a bunch more spots we don’t have the space to list. And that’s just one street. And that, friends, is why this former fishing village is number one on our list.

 

Alaskan Way Viaduct to open Monday, ahead of schedule

Originally published May 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm Updated May 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm

An empty Alaskan Way viaduct during the closure last week. (Ellen M. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

The Alaskan Way Viaduct will reopen Monday morning, about four days ahead of schedule as Bertha digs the tunnel that will replace the elevated roadway

Good news for Seattle commuters: The Alaskan Way Viaduct will reopen in time for Monday’s morning commute, according to transportation officials.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said Sunday that tunneling-machine Bertha has made good progress and, as a result, the viaduct will open four days before it was scheduled.
Officials had estimated the viaduct would be closed for two weeks as Bertha dug the tunnel that will eventually replace the earthquake-damaged elevated roadway. The job was done in 10 days.

“Removing traffic from the viaduct was critical to the success of this work, but we don’t want the closure to last a moment longer than it needs to,” said WSDOT Acting Secretary Roger Millar.

Crews began removing barriers to viaduct entrances Sunday evening. The roadway was closed April 29, and traffic that typically used the highway squeezed onto surface streets and Interstate 5, causing major delays that frustrated many commuters. The heavier-than-usual traffic also led to an increase in car crashes.

Structural engineers determined Sunday that the ground beneath the viaduct and the tunnel was stable enough for vehicles to drive over.

WSDOT and Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the contractor handling the tunnel project, determined Bertha’s tunneling did not have an adverse effect on the viaduct’s structure, said Todd Trepanier, administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program.

Now, some 90,000 drivers and 30,000 transit riders who use the viaduct each weekday can resume their normal commutes.

King County Metro plans to return buses to regular routes starting early Monday for 12 lines that had been rerouted during the closure.

The county’s water-taxi service will continue offering five additional round-trips between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle on Monday but will revert to its normal schedule Tuesday. Expanded parking at the West Seattle water-taxi stop will also be offered for one final day Monday.

Both the water taxi and Rapid Ride lines C, D and E reported higher than usual ridership during the closure, said Jeff Switzer, a King County spokesman.

“Closing a major highway is never easy, and the public deserves a big thank you for their patience and flexibility while this crucial work took place,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

“I would like to thank the WSDOT and STP project teams and construction crews on a job well done,” he said. “To finish this piece of the project almost a week early is commendable. “

The shutdown was part of a yearslong project to redirect Highway 99 into an underground route. The tunnel is now expected to open in spring of 2018, more than two years behind the original estimate because of breakdowns and extensive repairs to Bertha.

During the closure, Bertha churned through about 312 feet of the total 385 feet it needs to clear under the viaduct. The work is expected to be completed later this week.

“Much work remains, but we are encouraged by the contractor’s performance during this phase of the project,” Millar said referring to Seattle Tunnel Partners.

Blanca Torres: 206-464-2550 or btorres@seattletimes.com

This is how much money you need to make to live ‘comfortably’ in Seattle

BY  on April 19, 2016 at 2:05 pm

 Seattle

Your ability to “comfortably” afford housing, transportation, health care, groceries, utilities, transportation and more cost-of-living expenses now has a yearly dollar figure attached to it if you want to live in Seattle. A study by GOBankingRates.computs the number at $72,092.

The financial services website looked at figures for the 50 biggest cities in the United States to help individuals gauge whether their personal spending habits could cause financial troubles depending on the cost of living for whatever city they were in.

GOBankingRates

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(Via GOBankingRates)The study relied on the 50-30-20 budgeting rule, according to GoBankingRates, in which 50 percent of income covers necessities, 30 percent is for discretionary items and 20 percent is saved. The study also compared the total amount of income needed to the actual median household income in each city to see if differences in cost of living are matched by differences in pay.

GOBankingRates says that the median household income in Seattle is $67,365, which comes up $4,727 short of the income needed to cover necessities, savings and additional expenses.

The website flatly declares that if your income isn’t enough to meet expenses you either need to cut costs or consider moving to another city. Conveniently, the Seattle slide is just one of 50, so you can browse across the U.S.

Over at Seattle Refined, they spell out five cities where people live the most comfortably (Virginia Beach, Va.: $16,072 surplus income) and five cities where residents are the least financially comfortable (Miami: $46,199 deficit income).

With an influx of well-paid tech workers, the gap between who is comfortable in Seattle and who is not is sure to increase as the cost of living rises. GOBankingRates’ study shows only 15 of the 50 most-populous U.S. cities have residents who are living with a surplus between actual income and income needed to live comfortably.

More moving to Seattle

Tech firms in pricey San Francisco see exodus to Seattle

The Golden Gate Bridge frames the San Francisco skyline. (ERIC RISBERG/AP)

April 6, 2016 at 10:41 am