Port takes steps to cut Tideflats congestion

By John Gillie, December 11, 2014, The News Tribune


Between 5 and 8 a.m. Monday through Friday:


•  Trucks are allowed to stage on the right shoulder of southbound Washington 509 between Alexander Avenue and Taylor Way


•  Terminal access is prohibited from northbound Washington 509 or eastbound Alexander Avenue


•  Terminal access is prohibited from northbound Alexander Avenue from U.S. 99/Pacific Highway East


The port said truckers violating those rules can be ticketed by police.


The Port of Tacoma reminded truckers Thursday of rules that could ease traffic gridlock on the Tideflats caused by a six-week-long container-handling slowdown.


Trucks lining up along the port’s major arterials waiting for access to the port’s container terminals has drawn an ever-louder chorus of complaints from Tideflats businesses in recent weeks. Those businesses said the waiting trucks were blocking driveways and intersections and restricting access to their plants and warehouses.


Port of Tacoma spokeswoman Tara Mattina said the port heard those complaints. Working with local law enfocement agencies, the port published a new set of rules earlier this fall for trucks queuing up in the early morning hours for access to the port’s terminals. The port, in a message on its website Thursday, issued a reminder for truckers to comply with those rules.


Trucks move shipping containers to and from the port. Drivers have begun lining up before dawn to ensure that they get first access to the terminals when the gates open.


Container movements at the port and 28 others on the West Coast has dropped dramatically since Oct. 31 when the International Longshore Workers Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, concluded an unsuccessful bargaining session. The ILWU and the PMA, which represents terminal operators and shipping companies along the West Coast have been meeting since May to try to hammer out a new long-term labor contract.


The existing contract expired July 1. Under an informal agreement, longshore workers continued to handle cargoes under the terms of the old contract until Halloween, when the work slowed by as much as 60 percent. The union blamed the slowdown on mismanagement and chassis shortage. The PMA said the union deliberately was cutting the production pace.


The two sides have met this week seeking to reach a new deal, but thus far haven’t announced any resolution to the issue. A union caucus next week in San Francisco may allow ILWU national leaders to broach new solutions to local leaders attending the meeting.


Meanwhile, farmers, merchants, port leaders and manufacturers have all urged the two sides to reach a resolution and have asked President Barack Obama to appoint a federal mediator to get the talks moving.


Merchants have complained their imported goods from overseas are marooned on the docks during the holiday buying season. Farmers have said their perishable apples, potatoes and Christmas trees are spoiling waiting for transport, and manufacturers say they’re running short of vital parts made in Asia.


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