CHOKEPOINTS

Concrete worker strike crippling major construction projects in King County

Jan 25, 2022, 5:30 AM
concrete, light rail...
All of the columns (and most of the girders) have been placed on the Lynnwood Link extension. (Photo courtesy of Sound Transit)
(Photo courtesy of Sound Transit)

Will light rail expansion projects across King County be delayed by the ongoing concrete workers strike? It’s been nearly two months since any concrete was delivered.

Imagine you are building the largest expansion of light rail in the country, but you can’t get any concrete delivered. That’s the situation for Sound Transit, as more than 300 concrete workers continue their strike against six King County companies.

In the seven weeks since the strike began, Sound Transit has not received more than 14,000 cubic yards of concrete, which the agency’s John Gallagher puts into perspective.

“That means more than 1,400 missed deliveries,” he said. “If you lined all those trucks up, it would be a line of more than 9 miles.”

It’s hard to build guideways and parking garages without those 1,400 concrete deliveries. Gallagher visited the Shoreline south station last week.

“There are a number of forms that are there that are waiting for concrete to be poured, and those are obviously on hold,” he said. “There’s just a lot of work that’s on pause right at the moment.”

The biggest impact has been felt on the Lynnwood extension.

Gallagher said this strike is also impacting jobs.

“So far, the contractors have had to lay off about 164 workers, and there are more than another 120 workers who are likely to be laid-off in the coming weeks,” he said.

The big question for the public is what will a protracted strike mean for opening the light rail extensions? Right now, this hasn’t impacted those long-term schedules, but it could going forward.

And all Sound Transit can do at this point is sit on the sidelines of negotiations and hope the strike is resolved quickly.

“We would just like to get back to work,” Gallagher said. “That’s why we’re just calling on both sides to get back to the negotiating table, with an unbiased mediator, resume negotiations so the work can get back underway.”

A mediator was called in last week to help settle the dispute, but talks did not go anywhere. It was the first meeting between the two sides in months.

Seattle-area concrete worker strike continues following failed session with federal mediator

This strike isn’t just impacting Sound Transit either. Anyone who needs concrete in King County is struggling — both public and private projects.

The City of Seattle has also delayed several projects that were set to start this year, and the strike has impacted the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit corridor on Madison Avenue.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said the strike has led to contractor layoffs and delays across its projects in King County, including the 520 Bridge project and the expansion of 405 between Renton and Bellevue.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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Concrete worker strike crippling major construction projects in King County