People come and go so quickly around here.
People come and go so quickly around here. port of seattle
The Port fascinates me because it runs so (comparatively) smoothly that it’s easy for most Seattlites to forget it even exists — when in fact it’s like an entire additional city operating right here on top of us, touching every one of our lives whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s like we all have a foot in a parallel universe that most people are only sporadically aware of.

The other reason that the Port is particularly interesting to watch right now: the victories of Toshiko Hasegawa and Hamdi Mohamed, who will take their seats on the Port of Seattle Board of Commissioners in a few weeks and will — if their campaign pledges are to be believed — work to make the Port one of the most progressive governing bodies in the PNW.

Okay, cool, but what does that mean in practical terms? Well, as luck would have it, the Port just released their 2021 annual report, and it’s a great place to see what the Ghosts of Port Past, Present, and Future oversee in the parallel universe that most of us don’t even know we share.

First of all: Yeah yeah, I know, “Port of Seattle Board of Commissioners” sounds like one of those boring, obscure governing bodies that only the most wonky of local-politics nerds actually care about. How is this different from a bunch of randos on, like, the Enumclaw Volunteer Dogcatcher Advisory Board (Pro Tem)? Well, billions of local dollars, for one thing; hundreds of thousands of regional jobs, for another; and your ability to breathe for a third. Also, catching a flight out of Sea-Tac without it being a GIGANTIC FUCKING PAIN IN THE ASS.

To give you a sense of scope, the Port of Seattle celebrates its 110th birthday this year, and in its century-plus of life it's become a sprawling landowner with tentacles that touch a marina at the northern fringes of the city, numerous terminals, piers, and parks along the city’s western waterfront, and of course our beloved airport sandwiched between the triple-jewels of SeaTac, Burien, and Des Moines. It currently provides around 121,200 jobs, and supports economic activity of just over $40 billion. It is, to put things in technical terms, a lot.

And like all of us, the Port’s been going through a bit of a rough patch with the pandemic. Activity at the airport is at about 74% of pre-COVID levels (a rise from where we were in mid-2020, but still not great); cruises are bouncing back but environmental concerns linger; and anyone who’s shopped for anything lately has seen how chaotic the shipping supply chain has become.

But 2022 is going to be a busy year for the Port, which is committed to a broad range of life-improving projects over the next five years. At the airport, they’re overhauling the baggage system to be faster and more flexible. They’re redoing an entire terminal so security screening goes faster. They’re expanding a concourse upward with four new floors so you have something to do while you’re waiting for your plane besides just staring at CNBC. (Also: Additional bathrooms!!!) The next few years will be very “excuse our dust” at the airport as all this stuff proceeds. Look forward to the new International Terminal opening next month.

On the shipping side of things: The big news is that the Port just finished installing the biggest cranes on the west coast, and Terminal 5 (located in the industrial area next to the West Seattle Bridge) will open soon — “the largest amount of new west coast terminal capacity to come online in 2022,” the Port says. This is going to have a huge impact on your life: Not only can the Port now handle truly colossal ships, resulting in less of a backup of cargo ships waiting to unload, but it’ll also allow them to plug into shore power, reducing noise and pollution.

Environmental work will ramp up in 2022 as well. The Port’s restoring habitat on the Duwamish River, with a nice new park (formerly a Superfund site) slated to open this spring. This year the ports of Seattle and Tacoma adopted a clean air strategy to reduce emissions, sped up soundproofing in communities around the airport, and they’re currently studying whether they can turn trash into aviation fuel — yes, your random household garbage could someday go into the guts of an airplane.

These are a few highlights of what you can expect from the Port over the next year or two or ten — there’s also the Maritime High project, grants to local organizations, tourism projects, and on and on and on.

Plus: We’re expecting big things from newcomers Hasegawa and Mohamed. In interviews with the Stranger Election Control Board, Hasegawa said that her goal is for 100% of passenger trips to the airport to be car-free, and that the airport should give Orca passes to airport employees. She also said she wants to clean up the dirty energy used at Terminal 46, and to install more big cranes. Mohamed said she wants to improve elevator maintenance and bike parking at the airport, to improve emission monitoring, and to implement a law requiring ships to use electrical power instead of burning fossil fuels. Commissioner Ryan Calkins, who won re-election on the board, expressed interest in giving free Orca cards to Sea-Tac passengers, eliminating the use of facial recognition by Customs and Border Patrol, and turning Terminal 46 into a headquarters for building offshore energy equipment.

That all sounds great. We’ll be grading them on their ability to measure up to their promises when the Port’s 2022 annual report comes out.