A new Amazon fulfillment center at 4620 172nd Street NE in Arlington, Washington on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

A new Amazon fulfillment center at 4620 172nd Street NE in Arlington, Washington on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Amazon’s mammoth ‘PAE2’ warehouse springs to life in Arlington

The five-story Arlington warehouse is the largest Amazon distribution center in Washington, at 2.9 million square feet.

ARLINGTON — The largest Amazon Fulfillment Center in the state, a 2.9-million-square-foot giant, opens this week just south of the Arlington Municipal Airport.

The distribution center is expected to employ more than 1,200 people, but for now, it’s staffed by a smaller crew, according to an Amazon statement.

“As I understand, they’re doing a soft opening to get all the merchandise on the shelves,” Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert said.

The official grand opening of PAE2, as the center is called, won’t take place until next month, the company said.

Amazon uses local airport codes to identify its distribution centers. The new Arlington facility takes its name from Everett’s Paine Field, whose airport code is PAE, the company said.

The imposing five-story building at 4620 172nd St. NE has 52 docks and parking for 1,245 vehicles.

It is Snohomish County’s third Amazon warehouse.

The center is equipped with a robotic system, known as Robin, that works alongside humans as it moves, retrieves and stows packages, “allowing us to triage packages faster for customers and freeing up our employees to focus on other tasks,” Amazon spokesperson Leigh Anne Gullet said.

“Our newest generation of fulfillment centers make use of our latest advancement in robotic arms,” Gullet said.

The system can pick up and move items that measure less than 18 inches in length and weigh less than 25 pounds, such as a box of pencils or a toaster oven.

The Seattle-based retail giant first announced plans to build the $355 million delivery center at the Cascade Industrial Center in 2021.

“It provides new jobs for local residents,” Tolbert said. “I have friends and acquaintances whose children will be working there.”

For young people, in particular, who face a lengthy commute or must leave the area to find employment, the distribution center offers an alternative, Tolbert noted.

Locally, the hourly pay for warehouse workers starts at about $18 an hour.

Road improvements to ease congestion in the area are underway.

Businesses at the Cascade Industrial Center, a 4,000-acre site spanning Arlington and Marysville, are expected to generate more than 10,000 daily trips on neighboring roads.

The Amazon facility is expected to account for about half of those daily trips, according to a state Department of Transportation projection.

Construction of a roundabout at 43rd Avenue NE, paid for by Amazon, and a four-way traffic signal at 40th Avenue NE, have been completed, said Jim Kelly, public works director for the city of Arlington.

“The biggest issue with transportation is seeing where all the employees come from — from local roads or I-5,” Kelly said.

“Hopefully, a lot of new hires are coming from Marysville and Arlington and can use local roads,” Kelly said. “We’ll find out in a couple months.”

A state Department of Transportation project to widen Highway 531 from two lanes to four lanes is expected to get underway next year, Kelly said.

The Arlington facility adds to Amazon’s Snohomish County footprint.

In 2017, the company opened a 92,000-square-foot warehouse in south Everett.

Two years later, Amazon leased the lion’s share of a building developed by Panattoni, a 204,498-square-foot facility at the Riverside Business Park in northeast Everett.

That facility is located near BNSF Railway’s Delta Yard and just west of the FedEx Freight distribution center at the Port of Everett’s industrial business park along the Snohomish River.

Amazon plans to ramp up employment at the Arlington site in the coming months, with a hiring push expected before the holiday shopping season, the company said.

Worker safety at Amazon warehouses has come under scrutiny in recent years.

The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Amazon numerous times this year for “failing to keep workers safe” and levied nearly $150,000 in fines, according to a Reuters report.

“We continue to find that Amazon’s work processes are designed for speed, not safety, and that these processes cause serious injuries to workers,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, said in a statement in February.

Last year, nearly 7 out of 100 Amazon workers reported an on-the-job-injury or incident, higher than the 4.7% rate among other warehouse workers, according to the Labor Department.

At some Amazon warehouse locations, the rate approached 12%, Parker said.

“That’s more than 10% of the workforce every year who are receiving injuries on the job that are serious enough that they have to take time away from their jobs,” Parker said.

Amazon said it will invest $550 million this year to improve the safety of its workers.

“Safety is integral to everything we do,” the company said.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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