Kent City Council committee recommends Sounder parking garage site

It appears a second parking garage for Sounder train commuters in Kent could be built along Railroad Avenue North, just south of West James Street.

That site received approval from the City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee on Monday to recommend to the full council for the Sound Transit Board to choose that location for a garage. The facility could have as many as 550 parking stalls. The council is expected to approve the recommendation at its Oct. 17 meeting. The agency board is scheduled to vote Nov. 16 on the site.

Sound Transit staff identified four potential sites for the estimated $65 million garage. A stakeholders group as well as the majority of train commuters surveyed favored what staff labeled as Site 3, which is just west of Central Avenue North.

Construction on the garage is expected to start in 2021 and be completed in 2023, according to transit documents.

“It emerged early on in the process as the top site,” said Danielle Butsick, city long ranger planner, in her report to the council committee. “Some of the other sites are better for transit oriented development, so we did not want to displace development.”

The agency’s board restored funding last year for parking garages in Kent and Auburn.

Voters approved additional parking garages for Kent and Auburn in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit2 package. The board suspended the project in 2010 because of the Great Recession when sales tax revenue for the agency came up shorter than projected.

Sound Transit staff earlier this year revised the estimated cost of the garage to $65 million from the initial estimate of $35 million because of increased costs for similar projects built by the agency.

Commuters now park at the Kent Station garage, 301 Railroad Ave. N., which opened in 2001, just north of West Smith Street. The garage and surface lot provide 996 parking spaces but fill up quickly and drivers use nearby Mill Creek neighborhood streets to park. Sounder trains carried about 1,900 daily riders in 2016 in Kent. Ridership is projected to go as high as 3,000 daily in 2025.

The recommended site includes the Washington Cold Storage facility at 621 Railroad Ave. N., a Sound Transit surface parking lot and several Central Avenue North properties, including a Chevron gas station. Because of the large size of the site, however, it’s uncertain whether Sound Transit will need to purchase businesses and properties along Central Avenue for the garage.

“After more design work is done in early 2019, we will know a specific project for the site,” said Karen Kitsis, project coordinator for Sound Transit’s south corridor, about the recommended location.

City staff prefers building the garage on a portion of the site away from the Central Avenue businesses.

“We have looked at designs that leave the properties on Central as they are,” Butsick said. “That would be our preference, to leave those commercial interests and use other parts of the site.”

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