Work will commence soon on the next major dredging required to welcome Hyundai to its new marine terminal at the Port of Tacoma perhaps by late 1998.

Port commissioners awarded a $3,054,712 contract to General Construction for widening Blair Waterway’s turning basin to 1,400 feet so Hyundai’s super-sized container ships can comfortably maneuver into position at the new marine terminal being built for them. More than 720,000 cubic yards of material will be sucked up from the waterway floor and barged to a disposal site in central Puget Sound.

Curtis Ratcliffe, chief engineer for the Port, called this a “good sized” dredging project but smaller than the massive work done in recent years through the entire Blair Waterway. General completed a similar project for the Port last year at essentially the same cost.

The final two permits needed to trigger the two-year construction to a final completion window specified in Hyundai’s lease with the Port of Tacoma arrived July 17. Already this new customer is asking whether it could move into Commencement Bay as early as October or November 1998. And Ratcliffe has told his bosses that it looks feasible at this time.

The Port also agreed at this month’s meeting to add $552,000 to its contribution for a joint contract that is removing the East 11th Street bridge, work being administered by the state Department of Transportation. The former bridge cut will be widened to 355 feet, again to allow the larger container ships to pass safely.

Commissioners also authorized pre-purchase manufacture of 24-inch concrete pilings for Hyundai’s 2,000-foot pier. Tacoma’s Concrete Technology Corp. won the job for about $3 million. Buying now will allow pier construction to begin immediately after the construction contract is awarded. The current plan calls for piles for 1,000 to 1,500 feet of pier to be driven prior before a mandated fish migration protective window stops construction March 15.

At completion, the Port of Tacoma expects to have spent $60 million to prepare a new home for Hyundai Merchant Marine, a shipper now operating to Far East destinations out of Seattle. The Korean conglomerate has a 30-year lease for the 60-acre Tacoma site at $4.25 million per year minimum for rental and use fees, plus providing the container cranes. Once the site is operational, 294 jobs ($14 million annual payroll) will be created in Pierce County.

By Jeff Rounce, Business Examiner publisher