800,000 whacks down, 1 million to go at Port of Tacoma piling project

The ping-ping-ping coming from the Port of Tacoma will continue until Feb. 28, two weeks longer than originally planned.

The port announced the extension Thursday, and also offered a bit of relief to neighbors. Beginning Feb. 15, the pile-driving project will curtail its hours to adhere to the city’s noise law, which permits the pinging from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

The city previously granted a variance that allowed the contractors reconfiguring Pier 4 in the Tacoma Tideflats to work later into the evening and earlier on the weekends. That variance ends Feb. 14.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the extension. Those agencies are involved because the pile driving can affect fish migration. When fish travel season is over in mid-July, the pile driving will resume.

Tacoma residents noticed the noise coming from the pile driving shortly after the project started. Many complained.

Close to 400 people have added their names to an online petition at change.org asking the city of Tacoma to reduce the schedule and sound levels for the project.

Manson Construction began phase 2 of the project in September when the first of 1,241 piles were pounded into the mud. It’s part of a plan to create one contiguous berth out of two existing ones. When complete, it will be capable of serving two 18,000 container ships simultaneously.

The 150-foot long concrete piles are manufactured by Concrete Technology of Tacoma. It takes on average 20 minutes of pounding per piling to drive the piles to the proper depth, according to port spokeswoman Tara Mattina. Manson is able to install six to nine per day.

So far, about 530 piles have been driven in, the results of 800,000 hammer strikes, Mattina said. Using that formula, Tacoma should expect 1,066,500 more whacks by the time the project is completed in 2018.

Manson said its $89 million contract involves demolition, wharf construction, dredging and construction of a two-story marine building.

Two cranes, larger than the four existing cranes at Pier 4, will arrive in 2018 on ships.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

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