The city of Kent will build an overpass over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks along South 228th Street to improve traffic flow. COURTESY GRAPHIC, City of Kent

The city of Kent will build an overpass over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks along South 228th Street to improve traffic flow. COURTESY GRAPHIC, City of Kent

Kent to issue bonds to pay for rest of South 224th/228th Street corridor

$6.6 million needed to complete project

Kent city leaders plan to issue bonds to fund the final $6.6 million needed to complete the South 224th/228th Street corridor project.

Details remain to be worked out, but city staff received approval from the City Council’s Public Works Committee on Monday to write an ordinance to issue bonds for the final phase of the work. The full council will consider the measure later this year.

“I feel comfortable that we need to finish this project and maintain the grants we’ve received, and the most prudent thing to do is to look at debt financing to finish the project,” said Councilman Dennis Higgins at the Public Works Committee meeting.

The committee also approved a plan to use city business and occupation (B&O) taxes to pay for the annual debt service on the bonds. City staff will return for approval about whether to repay the bonds over 10 years, 15 years or another length.

“We’ve done a lot of internal financing lately, so we propose to go out and do bonds,” said Barbara Lopez, city Finance deputy director, in her report to the committee. “We haven’t done that for new things in a really long time.”

The city needs to complete the final phase of the South 228th street overpass to cross the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and phase 2 of the extension to the east up 88th Avenue South and South 218th Street to 94th Place South beyond the new South 224th Street bridge over Highway 167.

It will cost an estimated $40.4 million for the Union Pacific grade separation and $14.9 million for phase 2 of the South 224th extension, according to city documents.

If the city doesn’t come up with the funds, it could lose some of the federal or state grants for the project, which cover most of the costs.

“The project has been going on for quite some time,” Councilwoman Toni Troutner said. “We have been able to get grant money, we can’t afford to lose that.”

When the entire South 228th/224th corridor is complete, the cost is estimated to be $184 million, according to city staff. That cost includes the earlier extension of Veterans Drive up the West Hill ($34.2 million) and the BNSF grade separation ($19.7 million).

The bridge over Highway 167 is expected to be finished by this fall, but then crews need to extend South 224th up to Garrison Creek. The South 228th Street overpass over the Union Pacific tracks could be done by late 2020.

City Public Works Director Tim LaPorte told the committee that the city issued bonds over a decade ago to complete the South 277th Street corridor that connected the Valley to the East Hill.

Kent also issued bonds of $5.8 million in 2002 to help buy property along Naden Avenue for a new aquatic center before plans for that facility were scrapped. With a new YMCA opening this fall on the East Hill, the city now hopes to sell that property to developers for a hotel and potential mixed-use project. The city still owes about $1.8 million in bond payments, which it plans to pay off when the land sells.

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