King County Metro plans to expand its RapidRide line in 2023 to connect Auburn, Kent and Renton. COURTESY PHOTO, King County Metro

King County Metro plans to expand its RapidRide line in 2023 to connect Auburn, Kent and Renton. COURTESY PHOTO, King County Metro

Metro recommends Canyon Drive alignment in Kent for RapidRide route

Road picked over East James Street for new 2023 line

Expect the new King County Metro RapidRide bus line in 2023 to use Kent’s Canyon Drive rather than East James Street to move riders between downtown and the East Hill.

Metro staff plans to recommend the Canyon Drive alignment for the new route between Auburn and Renton after talking to Kent community groups and residents about a preferred alignment. The route will connect Kent to Auburn via Central Avenue and to Renton along 104th/108th Avenue Southeast.

“We heard pros and cons about both alignments,” said Greg McKnight, RapidRide I Line project manager, in a report July 16 to the Kent City Council. “James Street (aka Southeast 240th Street) would be faster, we wouldn’t need as many as service hours and there wouldn’t be as many stations, so it would be less capital invested.

“But we heard the Canyon (aka Southeast 256th Street) alignment would serve a lot more community assets and it’s also where the current (bus) service is. It’s

still in process but it aligns with our equity goals because of more of a need along Canyon, and it serves a high school and other assets along the alignment.”

Kent-Meridian High School and French Field sit just north of Canyon Drive.

Metro is expanding its RapidRide lines to provide faster, more frequent and more reliable service. The King County Council will eventually choose the alignment, possibly in the spring, after consultation with the city of Kent. Metro staff plan to return in October to the City Council with its next update about the project.

The RapidRide I Line will serve more than 6,000 riders who use Routes 169 and 180, two of the busiest Metro routes in South King County. The new line will connect transit centers in Auburn, Kent and Renton, including Sounder train stations in Auburn and Kent. RapidRide buses send signals to traffic lights, so green lights stay green longer or red lights switch to green faster.

McKnight said staff went to eight community events and did outreach at bus stops to gather feedback about the RapidRide expansion. Staff also met with a new 27-member mobility board that includes people who live and work in the three cities. The board met for 10 hours over two days and discussions were in English, Spanish and Somali because of the board’s diversity. The group also includes senior citizens, students and people with disabilities.

The $120 million capital project will include station amenities such as larger roofs and better lighting, new transit lanes, sidewalks and bike lanes. Metro will apply next year for a Federal Transit Administration grant to fund up to half of the project. King County will supply matching funds and the state Department of Transportation recently awarded an $8 million grant to Kent for RapidRide street improvements.

This will be Kent’s second RapidRide line. Metro operates RapidRide A on the West Hill along Pacific Highway South that connects the Federal Way Transit Center and the Tukwila light rail station.

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