After driver protests and complaints, the Port of Seattle may spend $6.5 million to rebuild the dilapidated bathroom and waiting area shared by 1,000 taxi and ride-share drivers at the airport.
Port staff are requesting authorization from the port commission to rehab a mold-covered bathroom for taxi drivers and build a new bathroom for drivers for services like Uber and Lyft.
Here's a look at what the bathroom—which Port Commissioner Fred Felleman calls an "embarrassment"—looks like right now:
That dump is shared by about 400 taxi drivers, who sometimes wait hours to pick up passengers leaving the airport. Nearby, hundreds more Uber and Lyft drivers share porta potties and sometimes also use the taxi drivers' bathroom. In recent weeks, taxi drivers protested their working conditions, including the bathroom and fees they pay to the port. They say those fees prevent them from making a living wage.
The two new restroom facilities will cost $2.3 million to design and $4.2 million to build. Back in 2015, the port planned to rehab the building and spent some money on design. But the CEO at the time—who has since resigned amid a scandal—tabled the project and wanted the taxi company using the lot to pay for the rehab instead, according to airport spokesperson Perry Cooper. The taxi company Eastside for Hire agreed to spend $300,000 improving the building. That never happened, though. Instead, the port changed course and decided it should spend more on the facility, according to Cooper.
The new project has been "on track" since this spring, but recent protests spurred the port's interim executive director to speed up the project, Cooper said.
Some money has already been OK'ed for the rehabilitation, so today's vote will determine whether the port will spend the final $4.4 million needed. That money will come from garage parking fees, tenant leases, and other sources in what's known as the Airport Development Fund.
The port commission meets at noon.