Sound Transit will start construction next year to extend light rail from Angle Lake in SeaTac to the Federal Way Transit Center with a completion date of 2024. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

Sound Transit will start construction next year to extend light rail from Angle Lake in SeaTac to the Federal Way Transit Center with a completion date of 2024. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

Light rail extension to Kent, Federal Way on target for 2024

Major construction to begin in 2020

The 7.8-mile light rail extension by Sound Transit from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way remains on target to open in 2024.

“We are currently on schedule to open in 2024, and we are looking at every opportunity to compress that and open as early as we can,” said Dan Abernathy, Sound Transit executive project director for the Federal Way Link Extension. “We’ve got a window in the spring of 2024 that we are targeting, but our official opening day right now is December of 2024.”

Abernathy updated the schedule during a report Tuesday night at a Kent City Council workshop. The agency released the 2024 date early on but had not specified a month.

The Sound Transit Board last month awarded the $1.4 billion design/construction contract to Nebraska-based Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. The total estimated cost of the extension is $3.1 billion, which includes Sound Transit’s costs for land acquisition needed to extend the line as well as 20 new light rail vehicles and other costs.

Structure demolition, utility relocation and final route design and station designs are scheduled for this year. The heavy civil construction with clearing and grading, tree removal, trucks and cranes will start in February or March of 2020, Abernathy said.

“This is a game changer,” Council President Bill Boyce said after the presentation. “It’s really going to change the whole outlook and perception of the West Hill.”

Sound Transit will extend the line from Angle Lake Station in SeaTac at South 200th Street to the Federal Way Transit Center at South 317th Street.

Passenger stations and parking garages will be built in Kent/Des Moines at 30th Avenue South and Pacific Highway South (500-space garage); at South 272nd Street near Interstate 5 in Kent (1,100-space garage); and at the Federal Way Transit Center (400-space garage).

Three new streets will be added at the Kent/Des Moines station to promote easy access for walking, bicycling and transit. Two large plaza areas will feature landscaping and public art.

A portion of South 272nd Street will be rebuilt to improve vehicle and bus access to that station. Other improvements will include a pedestrian/bicycle path to the station plaza, connections to the existing I-5 bus stop and direct access to the station platform.

Sound Transit also will name the three new stations through a formal process that will include input from the cities of Kent, Des Moines and Federal Way.

Abernathy said the agency has reached out to neighborhoods to be impacted by the new line and will continue to talk to residents.

“This is my third year of reaching out to neighborhoods along the alignment,” he said. “We walk them through their neighborhood and talk about trees and offer to add trees to their backyard if that’s what they desire as we take trees down along the WSDOT right of way.”

Similar to the Lynnwood light rail extension along I-5, Sound Transit is expected to remove thousands of trees as it installs the line along the west side of I-5 between SeaTac and Federal Way. The line will be elevated from Angle Lake to the freeway, at surface along the freeway until elevated again for the Kent/Des Moines stop, back to surface along the freeway, and elevated again by the South 272nd and Federal Way stations.

“You will see a lot of trucks and cranes and building of bridges for about a two-year period,” Abernathy said about construction starting next spring.

The agency will then install guideways for the trains and test the vehicles before opening for passenger service, which is expected to serve as many as 36,500 daily riders by 2035, which is five years after the extension between Federal Way and Tacoma is scheduled to be completed.

“We are going to start seeing a change on the West Hill and it’s a change that’s going to make a significant difference for those residents,” Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said at the council workshop.

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