Sound Transit investigates discrimination complaint against U-Link tunnel contractor

Image: Sound Transit Flickr feed

Thursday’s Sound Transit Board Meeting included unscheduled public testimony from NAACP and labor advocates detailing discriminatory employment practices against U-Link tunnel contractor Traylor/ Frontier-Kemper (TFK) working between UW and Capitol Hill.

Sound Transit executives became aware of the claims in early 2011 and continued to receive complaints of discriminatory hiring and a hostile work environment through September, when an internal investigation was ordered. CEO Joni Earl said that despite contractor records showing compliance with equal opportunity laws, “significant issues and discrepancies were uncovered” in TFK’s hiring practices and that the investigation report would be made public before the next Board meeting on July 26th.

To bring attention to Sound Transit’s 10-month long investigation, several dozen activists attended the Board meeting, some carrying signs of protest. Despite not formally being listed on the meeting agenda, three speakers were allowed to publicly address the Board on the issue. Details of their testimony included:

  • African American workers being told “we don’t need any more people that look like you on this shift.”
  • Union qualified African American workers being rejected as unqualified and replaced with workers from outside the region.
  • Intimidation of workers of color by a construction supervisor with a swastika tattoo on his hand.

Full disclosure and a discussion of an action plan in response to the investigation is expected at the next Board meeting. Video of Thursday’s meeting and testimony is here.


NBA Congrats to Washington Husky Terrance Ross and Garfield Bulldog Tony Wroten

Tony Wroten as a sophomore at Garfield in 2009. Image: The Seattle Times

Congratulations are in order to Washington Huskies Terrance Ross and Tony Wroten for their selections in the first round of today’s NBA draft. Ross was selected 8th overall by the Toronto Raptors and Tony Wroten, better known locally for his four years at Garfield High School than his one year at UW, was selected 25th by the Memphis Grizzlies. Best of luck to both! Details at The Seattle Times.

Sound Transit purchases high-compliance fasteners for U-Link light rail track noise and vibration

Image: Montlaker

The Sound Transit Board of Directors passed today a $2.1 billion budget and schedule for extending light rail from UW to Northgate by 2021. Included in the budget are measures for improving walkability to Northgate Station and a pedestrian bridge over I-5. Passing below the radar of this news, however, is the purchase of steel rails and high-compliance fasteners for the U-Link line under Capitol Hill and Montlake. This is an important step toward mitigating sound and vibration issues discovered during tunnel mining last fall.

The fasteners are part of a $7.1 million railway hardware purchase that had to be expedited to allow for increased lead time due to high demand. Sound Transit recently conducted real-world operation studies in the Beacon Hill Tunnel and determined that high-compliance fasteners would help U-Link stay below federal guidelines for noise and vibration.

“Basically, they have a much higher rubber content than normal fasteners and are specifically designed to reduce noise and vibration from the rails,” says Sound Transit spokesman, Bruce Gray. “Our experience during mining operations played a big part in the decision. That gave us concrete data about noise and vibration interaction with the underground conditions along the alignment.”

The operations track design is very different from the temporary supply track used to haul tunnel spoils during mining and excavation of the cross-passages. “The rails will sit on a new concrete bed along the length of the tunnel and the rails themselves will be new, continuously welded rail along the entire alignment. No clackety joints,” says Gray.

A community meeting at Miller Community Center has been scheduled for July 11th from 6-8pm to discuss expected noise and vibration levels during operations.

WSDOT offers 520 Bridge construction tours Saturday July 14th

Image: WSDOT Flickr pool

The next weekend closure of the 520 Bridge is 11pm Friday, July 13th until 5am Monday, July 16th. During the bridge closure WSDOT will offer public tours of the eastside floating bridge and lid construction:

We’re doing something special during that weekend’s closure as a thank you to local residents and commuters. We’re opening up sections of the SR 520 bridge and highway for special guided tours beginning at 11 and 11:30 a.m., Saturday, July 14.

We hope you can join Eastside and SR 520 Floating Bridge and Landings project staff for a special behind-the-scenes bus tour of the Eastside lids and the floating bridge under construction. You’ll get a chance to walk around the new lids, view the floating bridge construction, and get a better sense of just what the contractors are building.

If you’re interested in attending, just send an email to to reserve your place on the tour. Let us know if you prefer the 11 or 11:30 a.m. tour and we will try to accommodate your request. Registration is limited, on a first-come, first-serve basis, and must be received by July 11.

Cool! More details from WSDOT here and proof that dreams can come true here. Preview recent construction at WSDOT’s excellent Flickr pool here.

Image: WSDOT Flickr pool

“Our Food, Our Right” dinner auction to promote local food, Saturday July 14th

The Community Alliance for Global Justice will celebrate the second edition of its book, Our Food, Our Right: Recipes for Food Justice at its 6th annual fundraising dinner. The event brings together over 400 local food advocates for an evening of music, dinner, a silent auction and guest speakers:

The Keynote will feature two contributors to the book, Valerie Segrest and Elise Krohn from the Northwest Indian College Traditional Plants and Foods Program. Valerie also founded the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project. Through their work on health and social justice, Valerie and Elise aim to reintroduce traditional foods into the diets of native people in the Pacific Northwest.

The event is July 14th at Saint Demetrios Church, 5-9:30pm, dinner at 6:30. This is a great way to meet people and learn more about local food systems. More details here with sliding scale tickets starting at $40 purchased here.

Junuary 2012 Marsh Island trail report

Image: Montlaker

With Lake Washington swollen with spring thaw and an especially wet month of June (rainfall has already more than doubled the monthly average), the always soggy Marsh Island is more swamp than island right now. This is all the more reason to strap on the boots and go for it – the marsh is alive with life – except for the human kind not suited to muddy shoes.

Image: Montlaker

Image: Montlaker

A good hiking stick might help. And yes, MOHAI really is gone.

Image: Montlaker

Union Bay Watch: Is that Albert or Eva? How to tell the 520 eagles apart

Image: © Larry Hubbell /

With eaglets in the nest, Albert and Eva have been busy hunting out on Union Bay and bringing home food to feed their family of four. One of the pair is often spotted on a 520 lamp post, waiting for the right moment to dive for fish — or other birds. A new Union Bay Watch post offers tips on how to tell the couple apart (hint: Eva is much bigger and Albert has skinny legs). Lots more details for sharpening your eagle eyes, plus some great pictures of a Waxwing eating serviceberries, here.

Also, polls are still open for naming the eaglets. Vote here.