Sites under consideration by Sound Transit for a light rail vehicle Operations and Maintenance Facility. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

Sites under consideration by Sound Transit for a light rail vehicle Operations and Maintenance Facility. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

City of Kent hires consultant to study Midway Landfill as light rail yard site

Sound Transit considering locations for Operations and Maintenance Facility

The city of Kent this week hired Redmond-based GeoEngineers, Inc., for a Midway Landfill redevelopment feasibility study to locate a Sound Transit light rail vehicle Maintenance and Operations Facility.

Kent will pay the company $14,732 for the work, much less than the up to $100,000 contract amount approved in February by the City Council’s Public Works Committee.

“We were approving a high-end number to be able to give you the authority you needed to get it done quickly, expecting it would come in at a much smaller number which it did,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said at the March 18 Public Works Committee to Public Works Director Tim LaPorte.

“It’s important that the city makes its case as best we can for the proper siting of this facility, which we would love to have in Kent, just not at the Lowe’s/Dick’s site,” Higgins said.

The committee approved hiring the consultant because city leaders oppose Sound Transit considering the Lowe’s store/Dick’s Drive-In site near South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South as an alternative for the maintenance facility. The agency has six sites under consideration, including two on the former Midway Landfill, two in Federal Way and one in unincorporated King County.

Sound Transit staff said the Operations and Maintenance Facility needs to be done by 2026 to service and store more than 130 light rail vehicles. The facility requires at least 30 acres and would employ an estimated 300. The agency plans to extend light rail 7.8 miles from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way by 2024 and another 9.7 miles south to the Tacoma Dome by 2030.

The Sound Transit Board is expected to decide at its May 23 meeting which sites to move into a two-year Environmental Impact Statement phase for two more years of study to find a preferred site. Preliminary findings by Sound Transit estimated a cost of $1.3 billion to build the operations facility on the former landfill and $800 million at the Lowe’s/Dick’s site.

City of Kent Public Works staff told city leaders that price seemed high for the former landfill and recommended hiring a consultant to further study the site.

Sound Transit staff has said the costs are higher at the landfill site because early analysis shows a 3-foot concrete platform supported by piles would need to be built for the facility to avoid too much digging into a former landfill, which could lead to more problems and delay the construction with an additional environmental process.

GeoEngineers will work over the next few weeks to prepare a report about its preliminary geotechnical conclusions and recommendations, according to the contract obtained by the Kent Reporter through a public records request. The company will look at deep foundation alternatives, including pros and cons of each alternative. It also will look at settlement monitoring data compiled by Seattle Public Utilities, which owns the property and operated the landfill from 1966 to 1983 before closing it.

The 70-acre site is bounded by Pacific Highway and commercial properties to the west, Interstate 5 to the east and commercial and residential properties to the north and south.

The solid waste in the landfill is reported to be up to 150 feet thick in some areas and consist primarily of industrial waste, demolition materials and wood waste, according to an introduction report by GeoEngineers.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said earlier this year the costs to develop the landfill could be prohibitive and the property is a Superfund site, which could pose significant environmental risks to neighbors and workers at the facility.

GeoEngineers said in a letter to the city of Kent that its preliminary geotechnical services is to support the city in its evaluation of the site.

“Our scope is focused on geotechnical aspects of the proposed redevelopment and does not include evaluation of hazardous materials or impacts to existing infrastructure related to landfill containment or control (i.e. gas control systems),” according to the letter.

The company said it has been extensively involved in the Federal Way Link Extension project, including discussions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the state Department of Ecology and Seattle Public Utilities regarding permitting, design and construction considerations of light rail through the Midway Landfill site.

Sound Transit awarded a $10.2 million contract in December 2017 to HDR Engineering, based in Omaha, Neb., with offices in Seattle, for project development services for the Tacoma Dome Link Extension, including a preferred route, location of light rail stations and finding potential sites for the Operations and Maintenance Facility.

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