Seattle Public Utilities calls for $160 million garbage fix: Interbay site no longer under consideration

It was in the running for awhile, but in the end Interbay didn't make the cut as a potential truck-to-rail intermodal facility for Seattle Public Utilities' (SPU) solid-waste division.

Nonetheless, SPU still needs city approval for its preferred $70 million intermodal location south of Georgetown, and that's not necessarily a sure thing, conceded agency spokesman Andy Ryan.

The intermodal facility is a critical component in a $160 million SPU plan that would also include improving and expanding the run-down South Park and Wallingford transfer stations for $50 million and $40 million, respectively, Ryan said.

Identified in the Solid Waste Facilities Master Plan, an intermodal site is necessary to handle an estimated 450,000 tons of trash a year and to reach the city goal of recycling 60 percent of the waste stream, according to Tim Croll, director of the solid-waste division at SPU.

The city currently trucks down containers of trash and recyclables from the north and south transfer stations to a privately run South Seattle location. "Our idea is to do it all in the same location," he said. It would be more efficient for garbage trucks to unload into containers that will go directly onto the trains, Croll noted.

A search for an intermodal site was far-ranging, he said. "We looked at all the industrial parcels in the city." That included Interbay.

But the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad didn't want SPU there, according to Ryan. "It's a switch yard for them," he said. Choosing that location was also nixed because all the garbage trucks that collect in the south end of the city would have caused traffic congestion driving to Interbay, Ryan added.

"We would have taken all our (south end) garbage north to haul it south," he said of the ultimate destination, an Oregon landfill. In addition, Ryan added, the garbage-truck fleet parks in the south, meaning they'd hit rush-hour traffic twice at the end of the day.

SPU eliminated Interbay as a possible site early on and settled on four final alternatives, along with a no-action alternative, a formality always included in environmental-impact studies.

Two locations on Harbor Island looked especially promising, according to Ryan. And for a change, an SPU trash facility would have been welcomed there. "The Port (of Seattle) was kind of courting us," is how he put it.

That was because ocean-going container traffic had plummeted, Ryan said. It was a temporary lull. "Since then, the container traffic has taken off," he said of a yearly increase of 2- to 3-million units.

Furthermore, Ryan added, Union Pacific Railroad on Harbor Island didn't want a 6,000-foot-long garbage train taking up space when using trains to ship containers filled with consumer goods is more profitable. Factor in fish-restoration efforts that expanded the shoreline on Harbor Island, and it became "the incredible shrinking site," he said.

Also considered was a location at South Edmunds Street near the Federal Express headquarters near Airport Way South. The location north of Georgetown was dropped, in part, because road access to the site is poor, Ryan said.

That left the site south of Georgetown between South Corgiat Drive and Airport Way South, with I-5 to the northeast and South Albro Place to the northwest.

The site stretches for several blocks, and putting in an intermodal facility there would displace numerous businesses, a Puget Sound Energy warehouse and a rehearsal studio for Pearl Jam, Ryan said.

Southbound garbage trucks would reach the site primarily on I-5, and northbound trucks would also use the interstate after a relatively short detour through downtown Georgetown, he said.

Garbage trucks currently make around 600 trips a day, and that number would drop once the intermodal site is in operation in roughly 2010, Ryan said. The final environmental-impact study also indicates that traffic would remain essentially the same as it is now.

Having an intermodal site in the system, along with improving and expanding both transfer stations, would boost the recycling rate, he added. "We're about maxed out in the south," Ryan said. "And the north is even more tight."

The Seattle City Council and Mayor Greg Nickels have to approve rate increases to pay for the improvements, which would be financed by bonds, Ryan said.

SPU wants the rates to go into effect at the beginning of next year, and a bill for a typical residential customer would go from $20.65 to $23.05 by 2008, according to the proposal.

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or 461-1309.[[In-content Ad]]