Machinists seek solution to save Seattle bridge
Machinists union leaders are working with the Boeing Co. to lobby local governments to save a bridge that is vital to Seattle’s South Park community.
On Friday, District 751 President Tom Wroblewski wrote to members of the Seattle and Tukwila city councils and the King County Council, urging them to rethink plans to close, then demolish, the South Park bridge this summer.
“The Machinists Union believes that local government must simultaneously secure funding for a replacement bridge … (and) find a way to operate the old bridge on an interim basis until the new bridge is placed into service,” Wroblewski wrote.
The South Park bridge connects the South Park neighborhood of Seattle to the area around Boeing Field. It carries about 20,000 vehicles a day over the Duwamish River, and is the main artery feeding into the South Park business district, as well as being an important route connecting Boeing’s facilities along Boeing Field with supply centers on the west side of the river. As such, the bridge “is vital to Boeing’s Seattle transportation corridor and the thousands of family-wage jobs at their Boeing Field facilities,” Wroblewski wrote.
The 75-year-old bridge runs through a crazy-quilt of political jurisdictions — it serves a Seattle neighborhood, is owned and operated by King County and has one end in Tukwila with the other under county jurisdiction. It was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, and plans have been drawn up to replace it. But funds for the project never emerged. Now, with King County facing a budget shortfall, the plan is to simply close the bridge at the end of the current county budget year, June 30, and then to tear it down beginning in August.
If that were to happen, it would be devastating to the South Park neighborhood, which is home to a multi-cultural business community as well as District 751’s headquarters and its Seattle union hall. Without that crucial link, “businesses will close, homes will be foreclosed, and service providers will be hobbled,” Wroblewski said in his leader to the city and county councils. “By the time the new bridge is put into service, the damage to South Park may well be irreparable.”
In addition, traffic that now flows over the South Park bridge would add to the congestion on the First Avenue South bridge, and on the already-clogged streets in the Georgetown neighborhood, he wrote. That will make it even harder to get people and goods in-and-out of the Port of Seattle.
Community activists are lobbying elected officials to come up with a better solution, and now the union is joining with them. Machinists also are working closely with Boeing in an effort to find funding for a new bridge and to keep the old one operating until it can be replaced, Wroblewski said in his letter. With business, labor and the community all working together, he said, all that’s needed is government cooperation to “work together to try and save South Park from the devastating loss of its life line and its bridge.”
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