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Kent seeks state transportation funding for South 228th Street project

Drivers celebrate the opening in 2009 of the South 228th Street overpass over the BNSF railroad tracks. - Kent Reporter, file photo
Drivers celebrate the opening in 2009 of the South 228th Street overpass over the BNSF railroad tracks.
— image credit: Kent Reporter, file photo

Kent city officials will try to get the 2014 Legislature to include $15 million to construct a grade separation of South 228th Street from the Union Pacific railroad tracks as part of a state transportation funding package.

Doug Levy, a consultant hired annually by the city as a state lobbyist, updated the City Council at a Dec. 10 workshop that more money is needed for the South 228th Street project.

"We got word from both the state (transportation improvement) board and at the federal level that we have some funding at risk because of time constraints," Levy said. "We've let legislators know that we are about $15 million shy from completing 228th, specifically the grade separation from Union Pacific. We've said we're not going to have a very seamless connection to Highway 509 if a railroad arm is going up a couple of hours a day."

Kent has completed several projects to improve South 228th Street, a street-railroad grade separation at the BNSF Railway tracks as well as construction of the Joe Jackson Bridge, in order to tie in with the proposed extension of State Highway 509 from SeaTac to Interstate 5 at the Kent-Des Moines interchange, also known as State Highway 516.

"We're on the radar," Levy said about the addition of the South 228th project. "We're not in official lists yet. But on the other hand legislators are negotiating and we're hoping for a chance to insert this."

The council hopes the state includes the South 228th Street grade separation.

"It's a good idea," Council President Dennis Higgins said. "It really is a part of the total package of completing that corridor."

Trucks that go to and from the Kent warehouse district in the valley would have a much improved route if all of the street projects are completed.

State leaders are working on an estimated $12 billion transportation package for numerous projects, funded mainly by an increase of up to 11 cents on the state gas tax. The Legislature failed to pass a proposed transportation package last session. That package also included funds for new I-5 bridge between Oregon and Washington. That I-5 bridge project isn't part of any current proposal.

Levy said legislative transportation leaders have met a dozen times in an effort to agree on a transportation package that the Senate and House would adopt.

"In terms of (Highway) 509, and the 167 and 405 interchange that we've had on our agendas for years and the local funding options are all in the package," Levy said. "We're obviously among many pushing for that to be enacted. There is a lot of negotiating going on."

Gov. Jay Inslee announced this week that no agreement had been reached between legislative leaders and there would not be a special session to consider a transportation package before the regular session opens Jan. 13.

• Other City Council and staff priorities for the upcoming legislative session include protecting the annual $5 million streamlined sales tax payments to the city; protecting the annual $3.6 million payments to the city under the annexation sales tax credit for annexing the Panther Lake area in 2010; and restoring liquor excise tax revenues and removing the cap on liquor revolving account revenues which would result in about $1.2 million for the city.

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