In a regional competition sponsored by leading construction publication Engineering News-Record, King County’s Brightwater Project was selected as one of the Northwest’s best achievements in design and structure and will compete with other regional winners in a national competition this fall.
The Washington state wastewater treatment system was built by the county and its contractors and began operations in September. Discussions for the project, however, began in 1991, a good example of how long a high-quality project can take to develop. The project, completed under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), is vital to the Seattle region as it continues to expand infrastructure to meet the needs of its growing population.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said of the award,
“The award represents a tremendous honor for the talented team of County employees, contractors and skilled tradespeople who contributed to Brightwater’s project success.
The Brightwater campus features 70 acres of open space and restored wildlife habitat, publicly accessible trails, and an education and community center.
During its construction, much was made of the project’s $1.8 billion price tag, but upon completion many skeptics kept mum. The innovative facility was toured by 2,400 residents on its opening day. One of those visitors, Seattle Times columnist Lance Dickie, expressed confidence in the investment in the region’s infrastructure:
Gushing about a $1.8 billion water closet for processing human waste might seem a bit excessive, but Brightwater is the kind of investment in public infrastructure the whole country needs to be making.
The cost of important infrastructure makes a great talking point for politicians looking to curry favor among fiscal conservatives, but these projects create jobs and community benefits for the very long-term and grow regional economies. In the end, the Seattle region is being rewarded with a higher quality of life. Infrastructure spending was once a bipartisan home run but in the era of “no-tax pledge” politics, little spending can be achieved without outcry in the land of legislature. The Brightwater Treatment System is a perfect example of what happens when that ideological hurdle is overcome.