Thank You for the Honor of Serving as Your Seattle Port Commissioner

As I reflect during this holiday season, I have a lot to be thankful for. First and foremost, I am thankful for all of my friends and supporters who have stood by my side during my twelve years in public office and without whom I could never have done it. I truly believe that we are a better, more competitive Port today because of the collective efforts of so many people, including the many stakeholders who care about the Port, the focus and public-mindedness of my colleagues on the Commission throughout the years, and a dedicated, professional Port staff.

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The Airport Ecology Fund and the Port's Role in Helping Build Healthy Communities

I strongly believe that the Port of Seattle has a significiant role to play in helping communities throughout King County, particularly around Port operations, maintain healthy ecologies as the region densifies. I am therefore proud to have received sole endorsements from both the Washington Conservation Voters and TreePAC in support of my 2017 campaign for re-election to the Port Commission.

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Western Washington needs to start planning for a second regional commercial airport N-O-W

You have probably felt it in the increased traffic you sit in, the rising rent you pay or the construction cranes visible on the skylines of Seattle and Bellevue, but the Seattle area has been the fastest growing large metropolitan region in the United States for each of the last three years.

You also might have experienced congestion on the airport drive and longer security lines at Sea-Tac Airport, as the airport is also experiencing tremendous growth. Sea-Tac Airport has similarly been the fastest growing large commercial airport in the United States for each of the last three years. In 2016, over 45 Million passengers traveled through Sea-Tac, making it the ninth busiest airport in the country.

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The Seattle Times Endorses John Creighton as the "Superior Choice"

I worked as a paperboy for the Seattle Times for two years during junior high school. Earlier this month, I was honored to receive the Times' endorsement for my re-election to the Port Commission.

"His experience, including leadership in developing the port's growth plan and his understanding of the realities of the port's competitive challenges, makes him the superior choice."

Read more here.

 

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As an Environmental Champion at the Port of Seattle, I am Proud to Have Earned the Sole Endorsement of the Washington Conservation Voters

Growing up in East King County, I spent my free time and my vacations hiking the trails around Mount Rainier and the Olympic Peninsula with my scout troop, fishing in the waters of Lake Washington and Puget Sound with my dad, downhill and cross country skiing with friends at Apental, Ski Acres and Crystal Mountain, walking the family dogs under the thick tree canopies of Bridle Trails State Park, and splashing around in the Sammamish Slough at Marymoor Park. 

I was blessed to grow up in our beautiful region, and it instilled in me a strong environmental ethic at an early age.

Since being elected to the Seattle Port Commission, I have been an advocate and a champion for protecting the natural beauty around us. I have pushed the Port of Seattle to do better in stewarding our region’s precious natural resources. I have worked collaboratively with my fellow commissioners and staff, Port tenants and other stakeholders to set clean air and water standards much higher than federal and state standards. 

That is why I am extremely proud to have earned the sole endorsement in my race of the Washington Conservation Voters, the largest and most respected environmental advocacy group in the State of Washington. 

In my first two months on the Commission, staff asked the Commission for approval to build a new cruise terminal in North Seattle at Smith Cove. While I supported a project that meant jobs – every time a cruise ship sails out of Seattle it brings in $2.7 million to our local economy – I had concerns about its environmental impacts. 

Working with the UW Environmental Law Clinic, I drafted a six-part environmental motion committing the Port to, among other things, installing shore power so ships would not have to run their engines while at berth. My motion was passed unanimously by my colleagues along with approving the terminal project.

During my first year as Commission President, the Port set the goal to be “the cleanest, greenest, most energy efficient port in North America” and we have been working towards that goal ever since.

Under my leadership, the Port has:

Clean Air and Carbon Reduction Initiatives

  • Collaborated with the ports of Tacoma and Vancouver, BC on the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, improving air quality in the entire Salish Sea air shed.
  • Set goals to reduce air pollutant emissions by 50% below 2005 levels and meet future growth in energy usage through conservation and renewable sources
  • Partnered with Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Washington State University and other in the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest feasibility study, which looked at the feasibility of powering large commercial jets with aviation biofuels.
  • Set the goal to be the first airport in North America to supply aviation biofuels to all of our airline tenants and conducted a study on the infrastructure needed.
  • Commissioned a study on ways to work with airlines and other local stakeholders to spur commercialization of aviation biofuels.
  • Worked with the FAA and Alaska Airlines to be among the first airports in the US to participate in the Greener Skies pilot program, which is estimated to cut fuel consumption by 2.1 million gallons annually and reduce carbon emissions by 22,000 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 4,100 cars off the road every year.
  • Installed 48 EV charging stations in the airport garage, the most of any airport in North America, and are converting all of the Port’s motor pool to electric vehicles.
  • Required taxi and rideshare drivers serving the airport to use alternative fuel vehicles or vehicles that have high-efficiency engines of 45 miles per gallon or better.  
  • Moved forward a motion unanimously adopted by the Commission for the Port to become the first port authority to join “We Are Still In”, the coalition of local governments committing to continue efforts at greenhouse gas reduction despite the Trump Administration pulling out of the Paris Accords. 
  • Conducted the first comprehensive Greenhouse Gas study by an airport in 2008.
  • Electrified the majority of ground support equipment at Sea-Tac Airport.
  • Installed conditioned air and electrical plug in systems at all gates so that planes no long have to run their engines to power air and other systems while deplaning and boarding passengers.
  • Cut aircraft emissions by over 5% and reduced taxiing times and fuel consumption by airplanes by repurposing the airport’s old air traffic control tower as a "ramp tower," used to direct aircraft when they are on the runways. 
  • Reduced energy usage at Port headquarters at Pier 69 by 50% below historic levels.
  • Opened the Sea-Tac Airport Light Rail Station, made possible with help from the Port of Seattle after Sound Transit had financing only to build Light Rail to Tukwila (contributing a total of $110 million to ensure Sound Transit Light Rail access to airport terminal) and worked with King County Metro to increase transit to the airport. 
  • Made walkway accessibility improvements from the Light Rail Station to the airport terminal to encourage more people to use public transit.
  • Implemented the recommendations of a Bicycle Facility Plan prepared for Sea-Tac Airport by graduate students in urban planning at the University of Washington, including installing bike lockers, a bike break-down/maintenance station and access to bike boxes.
  • Won commendation from the US EPA for our program mandating the burning of low sulfur diesel while at berth for all cruise ships and other large vessels that are not capable of plugging in to shore power.
  • Became the first airport in North America to be certified for reducing carbon emissions by a world-wide independent program, achieving Level 2 certification under Airport Council International’s (ACI) Airport Carbon Accreditation program.
  • Facilitated, through the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the conversion by Totem Ocean Trailer of its cargo ships from being powered by dirty bunker fuel to cleaner LNG.
  • Worked with drayage truck drivers to scrap over 200 of the dirtiest trucks and retrofit all others with modern emissions control systems.
  • Implemented a new, stricter truck emissions program that will require all truckers using Port facilities to drive trucks which have 2007 truck emissions technology or better by 2018.
  • Encouraged Port of Seattle stakeholders to electrify rail yards and deploy cleaner diesel electric tug boats.
  • Worked with Louis Dreyfus, the operator of the grain silo’s Port’s Terminal 86, to obtain a federal grant to electrify all yard support equipment.
  • Increased the use of green energy sources, including developing the Port’s first ever solar project.

 

Clean Water Initiatives 

  • Established the Port’s own storm water utility to better invest the millions of dollars needed into improving storm water runoff infrastructure at our seaport terminals.
  • Prohibited discharges by cruise lines using Port terminals.
  • Become the first US west coast port to join the Green Marine environmental program, which includes commitments on addressing air emissions, cargo waste management, water and land pollution prevention; environmental leadership and community impacts such as noise, dust and light. 
  • Earned EnviroStar ratings for environmental best practices at three Port of Seattle marinas – Bell Harbor, Shilshole Bay and Harbor Island.
  • Achieved “Salmon Safe” Certification for Sea-Tac Airport, the first airport in the United States to do so.
  • Adopted all organic landscaping techniques at our 60 acres of parks and public access areas, keeping harmful chemicals out of run off.
  • Installed a network of storm water collection piping, retention ponds, storm water management practices, and wastewater treatment facilities to remove pollutants, reduce flooding and prevent spills at Sea-Tac Airport.
  • Constructed and actively manage 160 acres of wetland habitat and two miles of rehabilitated stream.

 

Habitat Restoration and Other Key Initiatives

  • Committed to restoring 40 acres of habitat along the Duwamish River, including cleaning up Terminal 117.
  • Been working with the US EPA together with the City of Seattle, King County and Boeing on a plan to clean up the Duwamish River.
  • Purchased the Eastside Rail Corridor from Burlington Northern, and worked with King County and Eastside cities to preserve intact the 44-mile rail line for use as a transportation and recreation corridor. 
  • Approved a $1 million Airport Community Ecology Fund and a partnership with Forterra to increase the tree canopy in neighborhoods around Sea-Tac Airport.
  • Implemented an award winning recycling program at Sea-Tac Airport, recycling not only paper, aluminum and glass, but also things like coffee grounds and cooking oil. 
  • Adopted leading environmental practices in Port construction projects, including building to LEED certification standards and recycling construction materials.
  • Adopted extensive Commute Trip Reduction initiatives, including complimentary ORCA cards for Port employees  and locker rooms and showers at Port offices.
  • Installed recycling bins, water refill stations, and compost bins throughout airport concourses, at security checkpoints, and in food court areas.
  • Provided airlines with compactors to make it easier for them to divert waste after flights. 
  • Required airport dining and retail businesses recycle and compost their waste, and to use compostable service ware and utensils.
  • Worked with concessionaires to establish a program of increased food donations, with over 45,000 meals per year sent to local food banks. In addition, the airport donates used cooking oil from concessionaires to be made into biofuels.
  • Installed honeybee boxes near the Sea-Tac airfield to help strengthen bee populations in the Puget Sound region. 
  • Developed habitat projects on airport property, such as creating wild flower meadows to support pollinators, and constructing rubble piles for use by reptile and amphibian species.
  • To make the airport less attractive for those wildlife species that present hazards to aircraft, Sea-Tac became the world’s first airport to use avian radar to detect potentially hazardous bird activity. In addition, Sea-Tac humanely captures and relocates many species of raptors, including bald eagles, to the Skagit Valley; more than 800 birds have been successfully relocated via this program. 

 

 

 

 

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Challenges Of A Fast Growing Airport

Last Tuesday I participated on a panel at an airport industry conference and was asked the following question – what is Sea-Tac Airport’s biggest challenge today?

In 2017, our biggest challenge can be boiled down to one word: Growth.

Sea-Tac Airport has been the fastest growing large airport in the United States for each of the last three years. In 2016, 45.2 million passengers passed through Sea-Tac Airport, making us the ninth busiest airport in the country. Over the last year, the commission approved more than $3.2 billion in capital improvement projects at the airport, including our North Satellite Modernization project, a new International Arrivals Facility, a repaved center runway and a new baggage handling system. At the same time, we are in the midst of updating our 20-year master plan to handle 66 million annual passengers by 2034 – over 20 million more than we did last year. At this point we believe that additional capital expenditure will cost at least $10-15 billion to implement – above and beyond our current capital plan and financing plan.

At Sea-Tac, our two largest carriers have provided most of the growth in air service. They are the locally headquartered Alaska Airlines, which provides about half of our air service, and Delta, which is almost a quarter of our flights now that they have made Sea-Tac their west coast hub to Asia.

Yet, despite the prominence of these airlines, our airport works with over two dozen airlines flying direct routes to more than 80 domestic and 24 international destinations. And we continue to grow. In the last month alone we have welcomed two new international carriers to Sea-Tac: Virgin Atlantic with service to London Heathrow and Norwegian Air with service to London Gatwick, both flying hometown made 787s on their routes.

Our four main challenges in accommodating this airport growth are:

• Fitting needed new infrastructure in a limited physical footprint,
• Funding the new and upgraded infrastructure,
• Addressing the impact of a growing airport on our local communities, and
• Increasing transportation options to the airport and minimizing congestion.

Footprint

Sea-Tac Airport encompasses a little over 2.5 square miles of property. We have one of smallest footprints of any international airport in the United States. Denver International and Dallas Fort Worth both are located on over 40 square miles of airport property, and Miami International (which handles approximately the same number of passengers per year as Sea-Tac) has twice the land we do.

Our challenge will be to handle the projected growth to 66 million passengers annually by 2035 and a corresponding increase in air cargo within our current footprint. That will likely mean a second terminal and a total of $10-15 billion in new infrastructure. Moreover, we need to time the new infrastructure in line with the growth trajectory of passengers. That is why we have been working on a 20-year airport master plan, which will lay out the infrastructure needed to accommodate projected growth and the timing of the build-out.

We will also likely have to make hard choices in terms of the mix of services at Sea-Tac (i.e., passenger vs. cargo vs. maintenance activity) and work with other regional airports to help distribute aviation activity as we continue to grow.

Funding

We rely on a combination of sources for funding infrastructure, including landing fees and rent charged to our airline tenants, revenue from our parking, dining and retail concessions, and revenue saved up over time in our airport reserve fund. The biggest revenue generator for capital projects at Sea-Tac Airport, however, is the Passenger Facility Charge. The PFC is a $4.50 fee that is added to the price of every ticketed flight and connection out of Sea-Tac. In that way, travelers pay for needed airport infrastructure. However, given the current federal cap of $4.50 for this fee, our current capital plan will use essentially all of Sea-Tac’s anticipated PFC collections through 2035, and most of the PFC collections through 2047, to pay revenue bond debt service on airport projects. And this is before we even begin to consider funding for our Airport Master Plan projects.

This is why we have increasingly advocated for a removal of that federal cap, which would allow airports and their governing bodies to make decisions that are in the best interest of their region to encourage competition among carriers, increase capacity and support economic growth through a passenger’s direct investment in local airport infrastructure.

Community

As we grow, we also need to be a good community steward. My fellow commissioners and I are committed to Sea-Tac Airport not only being one of the most efficient and customer-service focused airports in the country, but also a leader in growing responsibly and making sure that our residents both benefit from our growth and that we minimize the impact of our growth on airport communities.

We do this through local economic and workforce development programs. As the baby boomers age, more and more industrial jobs will come open, and these are typically good paying middle class jobs on which workers can support families. Through our Airport Jobs and Airport University programs, and working with outside workforce, business and labor groups to support similar programs, we aim to both connect and train local residents with the skills needed to fill these jobs.

We are working to increase the percentage of funds spent with qualified small and disadvantaged businesses. Increasing the number of women and minority contractors on large airport projects has been a challenge and we hope within this year to push forward some aggressive programs to increase utilization.

We also need to focus on minimizing our environmental and health impacts on airport communities as much as possible. That is why I have been a strong supporter of the airport’s efforts to encourage the use of aviation biofuels by the airlines. Last year we completed a study on what physical infrastructure is needed at the airport to supply biofuels to our airline customers and we are currently studying how to work with other regional stakeholders to commercialize and incentivize the use of aviation biofuels at Sea-Tac Airport.

Transportation to the Airport

The biggest constraint to and challenge of airport growth is not actually the airfield. It is the airport drive – getting travelers to and from the airport. In the future we will have to rely more and more on mass transit, including Light Rail. We are currently working with Sound Transit on ways to make Light Rail to the airport more convenient, and we are working to bring other transportation choices to the airport.

Last year, we entered into an agreement with the Transportation Network Companies Uber, Lyft and Wings, allowing them to operate at the airport. In a groundbreaking agreement, the TNCs agreed to meet the same environmentally friendly fleet standards that applies to our airport taxi fleet, using hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, incentivizing car pooling and minimizing deadheading (i.e., one way passenger trips).

The Need for More Federal Resources As We Grow

I should also note that all the infrastructure in the world doesn’t matter if we don’t have the federal staffing from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to process our growing passenger numbers. We therefore spend a great deal of time advocating for increased CBP officers, TSA officers and additional passenger screening canine teams.

During last summer’s peak travel season, Sea-Tac Airport experienced passenger wait times that averaged well over an hour, which forced us to invest millions of dollars to contract 130 pre-security bin loaders to expedite the queue management and divestment process. This year, we expect two million more passengers during the summer than last year, and we will rely entirely on TSA to help us reach our goal of 20-minute average wait times during peak.

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Statement by Port of Seattle Commission in response to Trump Administration Executive Order Banning Immigration

This Statement was originally published on the Port of Seattle website here.

This airport is owned by the citizens of King County and our responsibility is to steward it for their wellbeing and long-term future.  The Port of Seattle Commissioners, Tom Albro, Courtney Gregoire, Stephanie Bowman, Fred Felleman and John Creighton are here today to express our concerns over the immigration ban executive order that was issued late last night. As the government that operates this airport, this executive order runs counter to our values.  America is great because we are a land of immigrants and that is what made us great to begin with.

As the operators of this airport, we are deeply concerned that the abrupt nature of the executive order did not allow adequate process for public agencies such as ourselves to provide service that travelers and families expect and deserve. We took it upon ourselves to request a full briefing from Customs and Border Protection to understand how they are addressing this situation.  We respect these hard working federal employees who are under tremendous strain. However, when we felt that traveler needs were not fully met, the Port of Seattle stepped up.  We started providing private waiting areas for families here at the airport and connecting families to lawyers who can help advocate for their rights and the rights of their loved ones.

We met with some individuals who are impacted by this executive order.  One of the impacted families happens to live right here in this community, and happens to be employed by this airport. We will continue to stand with you.

 

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The Year In Review: 2016

As I look back on the last year serving as President of the Seattle Port Commission, I feel fortunate in having the privilege – and, yes, sometimes the challenge – of leading the Commission in a year that saw a lot changes.

On the whole, the Port of Seattle is moving forward toward achieving its goals of creating economic vitality in our community, protecting the environment and building a great airport and seaport. The state of the Port is sound, not just financially, but as an engine of opportunity for every citizen.

Thank you to all of my fellow commissioners. We are a team, the strongest in years. We welcomed Fred Felleman to the Commission last year, and he’s brought a lot of energy and commitment to everything the Port does.

And thanks to CEO Ted Fick and our dedicated team of professionals at the Port, who work hard every day to make our Century Agenda goals a reality. They don’t often get the credit they deserve, but their hard work on behalf of our community is very much recognized and appreciated by the Commission.

Here are some of the highlights of 2016:

Sea-Tac Airport

• We began work in earnest on major capital improvements at Sea-Tac Airport, including the new International Arrivals Facility and the North Satellite renovation and expansion project. In total, the Commission approved moving forward on over $2 billion in investments in the future of the airport. As we are the nation’s 10th busiest airport and the fastest growing large airport in the country for three years in a row, it’s imperative we build for the future.

• We’ve made great progress in developing our road map for the future, our Sustainable Airport Master Plan. I’m particularly proud of the work we’ve done to engage the community through a series of Commission roundtables. Together with panels consisting variously of airport and airline professionals, environmental leaders, airport community businesses and local elected officials, we looked at best practices for airport growth, as well as began drilling down on environmental and transportation issues that are critical to address as the airport grows.

• After a lot of study and input from the public and industry, we’re giving the public more choices than ever to get to the airport. We approved a one-year pilot program with ride-sharing Uber, Lyft and Wingz, and those services have seen amazing growth. We approved a new agreement for on-demand taxi services that ensures outstanding service for the customer while also requiring labor harmony between drivers and management.

• We weatherized the walk from the airport terminal to the SeaTac Light Rail station and approved plans to make access to the rail station easier.

Cruise and Fishing

• We saw close to a million cruise passengers pass through our two cruise terminals last summer on their way to Alaska, a record number. And we began a project to expand our Bell Harbor Cruise Terminal to handle Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ships. Every time a cruise ship leaves from the Port of Seattle it brings in close to $2.5 million into our local economy.

• We completed a major update for the Fishermen’s Terminal strategic plan. We developed this in close partnership with fishing interests at the terminal, and throughout the community. We want create new opportunities for the public to see and hear the fishing industry up close. And we want to upgrade the facilities to better support our local maritime cluster by creating new storage and industrial activity at the terminal.

Northwest Seaport Alliance/Maritime Cargo

• We completed the first full year of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, our partnership with the Port of Tacoma to jointly operate our seaport cargo terminals, and made great strides in integrating management, marketing, planning and other operational aspects with respect to the two ports’ cargo and container businesses.

• In partnership with the Northwest Seaport Alliance, we’re moving forward with the permitting and design to bring Terminal 5 back into service as one of the region’s biggest and most advanced container terminals. It will be start of the art in handling cargo, as well as a great neighbor for West Seattle in handling air emissions and noise.

Community and the Environment

• The Commission launched two new policy committees, Energy and Sustainability, and Projects and Procurement. The energy committee was created to guide the port’s energy use and to address greenhouse gas reduction, and we look forward to seeing recommendations soon. The procurement committee successfully resolved some tough issues in developing new policies around construction labor agreements and improve minority and small business contracting.

• We’re also doing our part to address the critical shortage of skilled workers in the maritime and industrial fields, and to help airport workers move up in the air travel industry. We’re investing in workforce education in local schools. In 2016, we tripled the number of interns to more than 100.

• We launched two new initiatives to spur economic development locally and around the state: A grant program to promote tourism around Washington State and a grant program to support local economic development efforts in 38 King County cities.

• We are all proud of our environmental achievements last year. We became the first US airport to be named Salmon Safe. We moved forward on Duwamish River cleanup and developed new public access along the river. And we are breaking new ground in planning for the development of infrastructure to supply biofuels for aircraft at Sea-Tac Airport. Using biofuels will help the community breathe easier and reduce our use of fossil fuels.

• 2016 also saw great progress in our relations with the City of Seattle. After the City Council rejected the flawed proposal to build a sports arena in SODO, we’re very pleased the city is now investigating improvements to KeyArena. We stand ready to assist that effort. We traveled to Hamburg – a city similar to Seattle with a strong, historic port and aviation cluster – with a number of Seattle City Council members, which gave us the opportunity to see the potential for a better working relationship between the Port and the city. We will be so much more successful if we work in partnership.

Looking back on 2016, it’s been a busy year but one in which we accomplished a lot in keeping the Port a continued, strong economic engine for our community. Working together, we can look forward to even more success in 2017.

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