Project aimed at cutting congestion
The Kent City Council voted unanimously April 1 to approve the construction of a three-lane, 1.8-mile extension of South 224th Street up the East Hill.
Council members said the new street will 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.
“There’s not a safe path for kids,” Councilman Bob O’Brien said prior to the vote. “The primary role of government is to provide safety for its residents.”
The new road will be extended over Highway 167 at South 224th Street, just east of 84th Avenue South. The road will run parallel to Highway 167 on the east side before going up South 218th Street to 98th Avenue South, where it will curve to South 216th Street and then connect to 108th Avenue Southeast (the Benson Highway).
The Council took no additional public comments prior to its vote but had seven public meetings over the last couple of years on the project. Several residents objected at those meetings to the city building a new street through their neighborhood.
Most residents at those meetings also opposed a five-lane alternative originally proposed by city officials.
“The three-lane alternative with turning lane pockets is a compromise,” Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger said at the April 1 meeting. “Some preferred no action, but many acknowledged the safety issue.”
Ranniger added that the left-turn pocket will allow traffic to flow more smoothly. As it is now, she said, vehicles back up whenever another vehicle is waiting to make a left turn.
South 224th Street currently dead ends between a couple of hotels a block east of 84th Avenue South and just west of Highway 167.
The project includes new bridges over Highway 167 and Garrison Creek, as well as sidewalks, shoulders, street lights, left-turn lanes and landscaping.
Because of the steep grade, no marked bike lanes will be constructed, said Tim LaPorte, city deputy public works director. But LaPorte said the new shoulder will be wide enough for bicyclists who want to use the street.
City officials started to plan for the extension of South 224th Street in the 1980s because of the expected growth in neighborhoods near the street. Since 1986, nearly 1,200 homes and 5 million square feet of industrial space have been constructed in neighborhoods near the South 224th Street corridor, said Chad Bieren, the city’s design engineer supervisor.
Traffic problems remain a major issue in Kent, a city of 86,000 that is projected to grow to 120,000 within the next 20 years.
City staff will include neighborhood residents on a design team to help decide locations of turning pockets in the center lane, street lights and other details.
To fund the project, estimated at between $25 million and $35 million, the city has required developments near the proposed street over the last two decades to sign covenants to help pay for the street. The current value of those covenants is about $12.5 million. City officials also will seek funds from state grants and future city budget allocations.
Construction of the street is slated to begin in 2010 and will be completed by 2012.
Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.