State gives Kent another $5 million for 224th Street project

The city of Kent will receive a second $5 million grant from the state to help extend South 224th Street over Highway 167 and up the East Hill.

"We hope to bid it this fall," said City Public Works Director Tim LaPorte, according to a video of the Jan. 6 City Council's Public Works Committee meeting.

The state Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) awarded a $5 million grant for each of the first two phases of the project. A third phase of construction would get the new three-lane street all the way up to the Benson Highway from the East Valley Highway. City officials estimate the total cost of the 1.8-mile extension at $31 million.

Kent has finished design work on the first phase that includes a bridge or overpass across Highway 167 at South 224th Street, which dead ends just west of the freeway near a couple of hotels.

The new street would touch down on 88th Avenue South and proceed up the hill along South 218th Street and South 216th Street to 108th Avenue Southeast, also known as the Benson Highway. Crews will construct a second bridge over Garrison Creek near 93rd Avenue South.

The state Department of Transportation is reviewing the design of the bridge across the freeway. Once the state completes its review and approves the project, the city will take construction bids. Phase One gets the street across the freeway.

"Phase Two extends from 218th and 224th and gets us over Garrison Creek to about 94th Avenue," said Ken Langholz, city design engineer supervisor.

The City Council approved in 2010 a Local Improvement District that will raise about $9.5 million from fees paid by property owners in the area to help fund the extension.

Other city funds for the extension will come from storm drainage fees, the business and occupation tax (B&O) and transportation impact fees.

Another $8 million is still needed to fund Phase Three of the project to extend the street from 94th Avenue South to 108th Avenue Southeast.

"This corridor has been in planning since 1987 as an east-west corridor," LaPorte said.

The council unanimously approved the project in 2008 in an effort to provide an alternate route between the Kent Valley and East Hill, as well as improve safety on the upper portion of the road where it will replace a narrow street that lacks paved shoulders, sidewalks and a turn lane.

Councilman Dennis Higgins explained at the meeting last week the reasons the city continues to focus on the South 224th-228th Street corridor, including plans for a grade separation of the street from the railroad tracks at the Union Pacific (UP) crossing, as opposed to South 212th Street projects.

"Through decisions made by previous councils the city and state have invested a great deal of money on this corridor and there are grants on the UP overpass that can't be repurposed for 212th," Higgins said. "That also is an important project but we don't have anywhere near the funding to move forward on that project whereas this corridor also is a priority the state is providing funds for to connect with SR 509. I'd like to get the 212th grade separated, but the city has a great deal invested to complete this corridor and is much closer to doing so."

Higgins used a football metaphor to describe the difference.

"On this project we're like on the 5-yard line and on the 212th overpasses we're on the 50-yard line," he said.

Two more city grants

City staff also informed the Public Works Committee about two other grants.

• The state Department of Commerce awarded $727,500 to fund the Interurban Trail Connector, a paved bicycle path from along the south side of South 228th Street from the Interurban Trail (at the UP tracks) to the West Valley Highway, also known as 68th Avenue South.

The trail will be about 1,800 feet long and provide a link between residential and office areas around South 228th Street with the downtown commercial area.

"It's a very important addition to our bike system for our employers in the valley," Council President Dana Ralph said. "We have some large employers and a big portion of their employees want to be able to commute to work and this fill in some of the gaps."

REI is at 6750 S. 228th St.

Construction is expected to start in 2015. The city actually requested $1.5 million for the project, but will use the grant to get the project underway.

"We'll stretch it as far as we can," LaPorte said.

• Kent also received a $300,000 federal grant to design Central Avenue South pavement improvements from Willis Street to South 262nd Street, a distance of just under a mile.

The street has many cracks, rutting and patches and requires reconstruction and an asphalt overlay. The road overlay will cost more than $2 million with total cost estimated at about $5 million. The city has not yet approved funds for construction.

Higgins said the council has discussed using B&O funds in 2016 to repair Central Avenue South.

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