Businesses wary of proposed LID

Enthusiasm was in short supply at the Kent Chamber of Commerce’s special meeting Wednesday to discuss the city’s proposed Local Improvement District that would be created to help pay for railroad grade separations.

“If you don’t have the money to do it, just don’t do it. Seeking 80-percent funding from business owners in that area is exceedingly high,” said Nick Dhami, whose son, Harmon, owns the Arco AM/PM station on 212th and 84th Avenue.

Jeff Ficks, with Skis Painting, echoed his sentiments.

“You don’t have the money, so you scale back,” Ficks said.

The taxes, he continued, never stop. “You’re hurting small businesses in Kent. It’s hard enough for us to make a living.”

The three proposed grade separations, which would include 212th Street and 228th Street, are estimated to cost $80 million, of which $20 million have been acquired through various grants, the largest being a $13 grant through Washington’s Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (FMSIB ) in 2004.

But recently, city planners and engineers discovered that the board had voted to pull the grant funding if the city couldn’t produce a funding package by November. One of its first plans was to appeal to business owners in the area while still seeking grants.

New contracts with BNSF and Union Pacific are estimated to vastly increase the volume of trains running through Kent. Among the coal and oil carrying impacts that the trains will generate, commute and wait times at train tracks will be increased. Currently estimated to be two hours of stalled time each day, the trains (some of which could run 1.5 miles long) are expected to add another hour to that time.

Other members of the chamber were more open to listen.

“What about doing a single critical grade separation?” asked April Sta Rosa with Valley Floors.

Engineer Chad Bieren responded that they considered that in the past, but the FMSIB grant applies the $13 for all three and prohibits them being rolled into a single project.

Kent Public Works Director Tim Laporte said that this is the first part of several grants the city is pursuing, explaining that “a lot of people want to be the last man in,” which gives them both prestige and leverage.

The city has acknowledged that it’s a sudden and uncomfortable reality to request $60 million from business owners, but the FMSIB has forced its hand. Laporte hopes that, with the inclusion of a LID agreement, more grant agencies can see that there is serious interest and investment in the area and will be more receptive to offering funds.


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