South Spokane Street and other roads around Terminal 18 became passable again Friday, after government agencies took steps to detour surging truck traffic.
Police were sent to control intersections, temporary signs were added, and early-morning truckers were diverted to park at vacant Terminal 5 so they wouldn’t queue along upper and lower Spokane Street. Unprecedented traffic jams had stretched all the way to Interstate 5 earlier this week as trucks converged to meet three container ships docked at T-18.
Trucks began to show up around dawn, but they weren’t clogging westbound upper Spokane Street as of 7:40 a.m. By 9 a.m. there were lines to enter T-18 but they didn’t block other streets, West Seattle Blog observed. The Seattle Department of Transportation described truck traffic as “low impact,” and conditions at midday were normal, spokesman Rick Sheridan said.
This week’s traffic jams are related to an ongoing dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which has been accused of work slowdowns. However, the union says port operators halted night shifts last fall. Ships along the West Coast have waited at anchor, and some that normally stop in Tacoma diverted this week to Seattle, causing a rush by shippers to dispatch trucks full of exports, according to a Port of Seattle spokesman.
In Seattle, the ILWU Local 19 issued a statement Friday calling on dock operators to add night shifts to relieve pressure.
“We’re taking a lot of cargo that was originally not intended for Seattle,” said Jason Gross, vice president of Local 19, in a phone interview. So many containers are stacked at T-18 that it’s difficult for trucks and loading equipment to move about, he said. The union and the PMA are in federal mediation.