Kent city officials gathered on Thursday to celebrate the completion of the Southeast 256th Street improvement project on the East Hill.
The $5.2 million project included the widening of the street between Kent Kangley Road and 116th Avenue Southeast with a new center turn lane as well as sidewalks and bicycle lanes on both sides of the heavily traveled east-west route.
Kent received a $2 million grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board to help pay for the upgrade. The board receives 3 cents of the state gas tax and selects local street projects to receive funds. Kent used its business and occupation (B&O) tax to help pay for the improvements, although the city will repay that fund through its transportation impact fee charged to developers who construct new buildings or houses or who make a major change in pre-existing structures.
The City Council in 2013 took the step to use the B&O funds after property owners in the 256th Street area rejected a local improvement district (LID) to help pay for the project through higher property taxes.
“This was an important project,” City Councilman Dennis Higgins said at the gathering. “We would lose $2 million from the Transportation Improvement Board if we didn’t match it.”
More than 250 students in grades K-12 use the street each weekday and there are more than 1,200 apartment homes along the stretch of road, Mayor Suzette Cooke said.
Crews turned a two-lane road without sidewalks and lights into a three-lane road with a center turn lane, sidewalks and lights. City officials wanted to improve the street not only for vehicles that commute along it but to provide sidewalks and lighting for children who walk to school as well as those who walk to nearby businesses.