City staff expects to return to the Kent City Council early next year with proposals to come up with the final $11.6 million needed to complete two major road projects along the South 228th/224th Street corridor.
Bids are expected to go out by the end of the year for the final phase of the South 228th street overpass to cross the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and phase 2 of the extension beyond the new South 224th Street bridge over Highway 167. City staff estimated another $11.6 million will be needed for the two projects.
“Bottom line is we need $5.2 million to complete UP, and we need $6.4 million for the 224th extension,” Public Works Director Tim LaPorte said to the council at a Dec. 11 workshop.
State, city and federal funds have covered most of the $41.5 million Union Pacific Railroad grade separation. The city recently closed a portion of South 228th Street for the next two years as crews complete storm drainage work over the next few months and then start a $7.7 million project for ground improvements, approach embankments and installation of bridge shafts.
The fifth and final phase of the project will be to construct the bridge, remaining embankments and the final roadway in an effort to complete the work within the next two years.
The bridge over Highway 167 should be finished by the end of next summer, but then crews need to extend South 224th up to Garrison Creek.
“We will come back to council in January or February,” LaPorte said. “We have been working with Finance (Department staff) to figure out the best way to come up with $11.6 million, and we will have a better feeling for it once the two projects get advertised later this month.”
LaPorte said staff remains concerned about how numerous construction projects by the state Department of Transportation and Sound Transit could drive up costs.
“We are really concerned about construction inflation,” he said. “There are no more grants we are aware of, we have looked under every rock. When you add up the value of the state projects and Sound Transit, we will see lot of construction competition and that brings up the price.”
City staff applied this year for federal funds for the South 224th extension but were unsuccessful.
City leaders want the railroad grade separation to improve traffic flow and keep vehicles, including numerous trucks from local warehouses, having to wait for trains at the crossing. Traffic is delayed anywhere from 90 minutes to more than two hours per day waiting for trains at the UP and BNSF Railway crossings, according to city staff.
Kent completed the BNSF overpass along South 228th Street in 2009. The new overpass to be built over the UP tracks and Interurban Trail will look similar to the overpass for the BNSF tracks.
The Legislature in 2015 approved a $15 million grant for the South 228th Street overpass project as part of its $16 billion statewide transportation package. Legislators also approved $45.4 million to extend State Route 509 between SeaTac and Kent to connect to Interstate 5. Kent’s Veterans Drive will be extended under I-5 to connect with SR 509, a project the state expects to complete in 2025.
Poulsbo RV must move to make room for the extended highway. The company is in negotiations with the state Department of Transportation about paying for relocation, possibly another site in Kent, LaPorte said.
When the entire South 228th/224th corridor is complete, the cost is estimated to be $184 million, LaPorte said. That cost includes the earlier extension of Veterans Drive up the West Hill ($34.2 million) and the BNSF grade separation ($19.7 million).
Now the city remains about $12 million short.
“We look forward to you coming back and figuring out how to pay for this,” Council President Bill Boyce said to LaPorte at the conclusion of the workshop.