The garage entrance to the proposed design of the new Kent/Des Moines light rail station. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

The garage entrance to the proposed design of the new Kent/Des Moines light rail station. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

Building demolition continues on Kent’s West Hill to make room for light rail

Nearly 70 structures coming down

Crews will finish demolishing about 70 structures in May on Kent’s West Hill to make room for Sound Transit’s light rail extension.

“Most structures are either gone or permitted (to be demolished), others to be permitted will be down by next month,” said Kelly Peterson, the city’s Link light rail liaison, in a report April 7 to the Kent City Council about the 7.8-mile extension from Angle Lake in SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way that is expected to open in late 2024.

An apartment complex and small mobile home park are among the areas that have been cleared. Crews tore down the Terra Villa Apartments just north of the Lowe’s store in January.

Two light rail stations with parking garages will be built in Kent, one near 30th Avenue South and a new South 236th Street, and the second one at Star Lake near South 272nd Street and Interstate 5. About 500 parking spaces are planned for Kent/Des Moines and another 1,100 at Star Lake.

The total cost of the Federal Way Link Extension is an estimated $3.1 billion with federal grants covering about 25 percent of the cost, according to Sound Transit. About $1.5 billion is expected to come from Sound Transit dedicated sales, rental car, motor vehicle excise and property tax revenues. Another $629 million will come from the federal loan to be repaid by Sound Transit tax revenues and about $145 million is covered by Sound Transit bond proceeds repaid by tax revenues.

“We are in the peak of permitting for the project,” said Peterson, who added permitting will continue through February 2021 when work on the Star Lake Station and garage is expected to be approved.

Seattle Public Utilities is expected to start work in May to remove materials from the eastern edge of its former Midway Landfill that is just west of I-5. The land needs to be cleared for the light rail line along the freeway as well as a new southbound lane the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plans to build from Kent Des Moines Road to near South 272nd Street as part of the State Route 509 extension to I-5.

Peterson said WSDOT right of way extends into the landfill and the agency has an agreement with Seattle Public Utilities that it would remove material if the state wanted to expand the freeway.

“They will remove the landfill waste to an approved facility,” Peterson said.

Because of the property that will be cleared, the light rail guideway will be at-grade rather than elevated along the edge of the landfill and next to the freeway, Peterson said. While light rail is expected to open for service in 2024, the freeway project isn’t expected to be completed until 2028.

But Sound Transit, WSDOT and Seattle Public Utilities agreed to make room for the light rail and freeway extension during one project rather than going back later to make room for the extra freeway lane.

People will see a lot of changes along Pacific Highway South between South 240th Street and Kent Des Moines Road with the light rail extension. Three new streets will be built, South 234th, South 236th and South 238th.

South 236th Street will go underneath the elevated Kent/Des Moines light rail station similar to how South 200th Street goes underneath the Angle Lake Station in SeaTac.

Peterson said 30th Avenue South, which now is an asphalt road with no curbs, sidewalks, gutters or lights will become a concrete road with sidewalks, curbs and lights. The road will be concrete to last longer with the numerous buses expected on it to transport people to and from the light rail station.

Property east of the new parking garage will be used for transit-oriented development, projects still to be determined depending on interest of developers. Apartments with retail have gone up at other stops along the light rail line between SeaTac and Seattle.

Construction on the light rail extension will continue through 2023, Peterson said. Sound Transit will then spend about a year testing the tracks with electric power above the light rail vehicles before service opens to the public in late 2024.

The stay home orders from Gov. Jay Inslee has slowed work some on the project, although demolition of buildings can continue, Peterson said. He added design and permitting continue as well.

New maintenance facility

Sound Transit continues to study where to build a new Operations and Maintenance Facility for the light rail vehicles. One site in Kent on the Midway Landfill is under consideration along with two Federal Way sites. A draft environmental impact statement about the three sites is expected to be ready for public comment later this year.

The Sound Transit Board of Directors expects to pick a site for the facility in 2021. The facility is scheduled to open in 2026.

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