Crews are busy building a light rail station and parking garage in Kent while plans of where to build an Operations and Maintenance Facility South remain to be determined.
Sound Transit’s $3.1 billion project will extend light rail 7.8 miles from Angle Lake Station in SeaTac to the Federal Way Transit Center. Passenger service is expected to begin in 2024. Stations will be built at Kent/Des Moines, Star Lake in Kent and in Federal Way.
The elevated Kent/Des Moines Station will be just east of Pacific Highway South and Highline College along a new South 236th Street. The 500-stall parking garage will sit just east of the station and include a food truck plaza.
Some work also has started at the Star Lake Station, near South 272nd Street, just west of Interstate 5. A new parking garage at that site will include 1,100 spaces. Crews will rebuild a portion of 272nd to improve access, with new sidewalks and landscaping nearby.
“It’ll be 12 minutes travel time between Federal Way and Highline College,” said Linneth Riley-Hall, executive project director for Federal Way Link Extension, at an April 1 virtual Kent Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Crews are also drilling shafts near the Kent/Des Moines Station to support the guideway for light rail vehicles.
Meanwhile, Sound Transit is considering three sites for a new Operations and Maintenance Facility South to store and service about 144 light rail vehicles.
The sites are the former Midway Landill in Kent that sits between I-5 and Pacific Highway South and two sites in Federal Way, one near South 336th Street and the other near South 344th Street.
“It’s one of four planned for the region,” said Curvie Hawkins, project director for the Tacoma Dome Link Extension, a 10-mile stretch from Federal Way scheduled to open in 2030. “Trains go in there for four hours for cleaning, storage and repair. This is where they go at night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Sound Transit has a maintenance facility in south Seattle, one under construction in Bellevue and will build one north of Seattle.
The facility built in Kent or Federal Way will employ up to 470 with an average wage of $40 per hour or $83,000 per year, Hawkins said. The facility will help service light rail expansion to the Tacoma Dome and to West Seattle.
It will cost an estimated $2.4 billion to build a facility on the former landfill in Kent. The estimated costs for each of the Federal Way sites is $1.2 billion. Construction could start in 2024 and be completed in 2026, but that date is expected to be pushed out. About 59 to 69 acres are needed for the building and tracks.
The costs are higher at the landfill because it’s a Superfund site with potential ground settlement, methane gas and hazardous materials concerns.
“We need to address ground settlement because it is a landfill and materials there are decomposing,” Hawkins said. “The options include a platform using piers to support, a hybrid where we pull out some material and use a concrete slab, or full excavation to pull everything out of there.”
The Sound Transit Board is expected to choose a preferred site for the maintenance facility this summer or fall. Online public comment about the draft environmental impact statement for the project and three sites ends April 19.
A final environmental impact statement about the preferred site is scheduled to be released in mid-2022 when the board will decide whether to approve the project.
Hawkins said staff has no recommendation to the board for a preferred site at this point, but that will come later in the year.
“We are evaluating them equally and the results show differences in the sites,” Hawkins said. “The Midway site will cost more and take longer to construct, but the Federal Way sites have more environmental impacts and more impact to residents and businesses. We look at all the sites, and the draft environmental impact statement shows the different impacts.”
The timeline to build the facility, however, could change as part of Sound Transit’s capital program realignment, where the board could decide to delay or cancel projects due to a lack of funds. The agency faces an estimated $11.5 billion shortfall for all of its projects planned during its 25-year capital program from 2016 to 2041.
A drop in sales taxes due to COVID-19 has had a large impact on Sound Transit’s budget as well as higher property prices and construction costs.
The Federal Way Link Extension is under construction and won’t be impacted by budget shortfalls. The maintenance facility could face delays. The board will discuss options in May with a potential decision in July about a realignment plan, said Matt Shelden, Sound Transit deputy executive director of planning and integration.