Kent, state look at local funding options for SR 509

The city of Kent’s contribution to help pay for the extension of State Route 509 between Kent and SeaTac might not be as much as state officials initially indicated a few months ago.

Exact dollar amounts remain to be determined, but the City Council found out from Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) staff at a Tuesday workshop that Kent’s amount could drop significantly from an estimated $10 million if federal and state grants come through.

”I feel better about it today than the first time they came here,” said Council President Bill Boyce, referring to a state staff presentation in June when the local dollar match first came up. “They are continuing to look for ways to have less impact to the city. They were talking about the city need to help the project by giving $10 million.

“But there may be other ways we can all work together to make this much-needed project be successful. We will work closely with them to try to find a common ground that will benefit us as a city and the project as a whole.”

Craig Stone, WSDOT program administrator for what’s known as the Puget Sound Gateway project, told the council the state will work with the city to pursue federal and state grants.

The 11.9 percent-per-gallon jump in the state gas tax approved by the Legislature in 2015 will cover about $1.6 billion of the $2 billion project to extend SR 509 nearly six miles between Kent and SeaTac, connecting it to Interstate 5 and extending SR 167 about six miles between Puyallup and Tacoma, according to WSDOT documents. The project is an effort to improve connections between freight corridors as well as urban centers, the WSDOT explained.

Construction on the highway extensions isn’t expected to start until 2020 or 2021 and not open for traffic until 2025 or 2026, which includes just phase one on SR 509 between I-5 and 24th Avenue South in SeaTac to provide airport access, Stone said. The second phase to extend SR 509 to South 188th Street in SeaTac, where the highway currently ends, wouldn’t be completed until about 2030.

“Construction is to begin in 2021 and that seems like a long time but we need to get to understandings well before then,” Stone said about the funding packages.

The state hired Steve Gorcester, former director of the state Transportation Improvement Board (TIB), to help local jurisdictions to acquire grants. The TIB, funded by three cents of the state gas tax, picks projects to fund based on applications.

Gorcester proposed that the city seek TIB grants to extend Veterans Drive even farther as part of the SR 509 project. Kent already spent millions to get Veterans Drive up to Military Road South. The additional extension will be part of the plan to bring SR 509 to Kent at the SR 516 (Kent-Des Moines Road) interchange.

“The idea is we (WSDOT) would join to fund the matches and work grant applications together between our staff and your staff,” Gorcester said at the council workshop. “The share of the grant match would be your contribution.”

So if the grant is for $4 million to help pay for the Veterans Drive extension, Kent would pay an estimated $1 million in matching funds as would the state.

“This is exciting in terms of the possibilities and we have to recognize it as that,” Councilman Jim Berrios said.

The package approved by the Legislature calls for $130 million in local contributions. That includes $70 million to extend SR 167 from Puyallup to Tacoma and $60 million to extend SR 509 from SeaTac to I-5 in Kent. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma each plan to contribute $30 million each to the local funding.

The state also plans to install toll lanes along the new four-lane SR 509 extension at a cost yet to be determined to raise about $180 million.

State officials hope to acquire a federal grant of about $114 million for the project. WSDOT plans to apply for the grant by November with the U.S. Department of Transportation for an Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant.

WSDOT staff said because the start of the project remains a few years away, it gives the city and state more time to track down federal and state grants.

Poulsbo RV update

Stone said state officials plan to meet in October with Poulsbo RV owners about potential options for their property.

The business, at 23051 Military Road S., is at the top of Veterans Drive and right near where the new extension will be built. State staff met with Poulsbo RV in May and the two sides continue to look at options about how the project will impact the company.

“We have given them some layouts so they can do their homework and think about what their choices are,” Stone said.

Berrios said he hopes an agreement can be worked out to keep the business in Kent.

“As a city our preference is to keep them in town and not have them go to Sumner,” Berrios said.

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