Kent, Sound Transit dispute bus plan at new Sounder garage

City staff claims street cannot handle Metro bus traffic

Sound Transit plans to start construction in 2021 on a second parking garage for train commuters at Site 3. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

Sound Transit plans to start construction in 2021 on a second parking garage for train commuters at Site 3. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

Kent city officials and Sound Transit staff disagree about how to handle King County Metro bus traffic when a second Sounder parking garage opens in 2023 for train commuters.

City staff sent a letter to Sound Transit in June to raise concerns about the realignment of Railroad Avenue North for the estimated $65 million garage to be built at East James Street and Railroad Avenue North. The garage will have about 500 parking spaces. Sound Transit is building a second garage because the existing Kent Station garage often fills up early in the morning. Construction on the garage is expected to start in 2021.

“We know that King County Metro is going to be nearly doubling their service at Kent Station until about 2040,” said city senior planner Danielle Butsick to the City Council at a Tuesday night workshop. “The way that Sound Transit’s site is proposed, it really didn’t look like there is capacity to fit that new service.

“The other thing is that since all of the bay space is going to be on street, the road would have to be incredibly wide to accommodate those bus bays on either side, which creates an uncomfortable environment for pedestrians because of the width of the road you would have to cross and visibility with buses parked on both sides.”

Sound Transit responded with a letter (co-signed by Metro staff) in August to the city that it intends to move forward with its proposal with Railroad Avenue on the east side of the garage, Butsick said. Sound Transit said it was working with King County Metro to make sure its needs were met and they would not look at other properties as suggested by the city, nor would they look at including bay space on the bottom floor of the garage, another city suggestion.

“A good portion of the space Sound Transit proposed for bus layover space is actually on street in city right-of-way taking up parking spaces, which are inconsistent with our standards and goals and our engineering department is not willing to allow those spaces,” Butsick said.

The response of Sound Transit didn’t go over well with Kent leaders.

“It is frustrating and disappointing,” Mayor Dana Ralph said at the workshop. “I believe that our staff did a very thoughtful analysis and is looking at what we are hoping to be an expanding need for transit, and this proposal is shortsighted to say the least.”

Butsick said the city would probably seek a development agreement in order for Sound Transit and Metro to move forward with the proposed layout.

“Metro and Sound Transit need to really work together to make this site function into the future – not just today but 50 years from now,” Butsick said.

Council President Bill Boyce echoed city staff’s and the mayor’s responses.

“If we are going to do it, do it right and solve the problem,” Boyce said. “I will have a hard time with this. I hope they can somehow work it out and that they understand our concerns because we do have some serious concerns.”

Austin Neilson, a Sound Transit government and community relations officer, attended the workshop and told the council he will take their concerns to the Sounder garage project team.

Sound Transit will hold an open house for the public about the garage design from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Green River College Kent campus at Kent Station, Neilson said.

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