A map of the RapidRide I Line that will connect Auburn, Kent and Renton and is expected to open in 2023. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Metro

A map of the RapidRide I Line that will connect Auburn, Kent and Renton and is expected to open in 2023. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Metro

Metro to expand RapidRide buses to Kent Valley, East Hill

New line in 2023 to connect Auburn, Kent, Renton

King County Metro plans to expand its RapidRide bus line by 2023 to connect the cities of Auburn, Kent and Renton with faster, more frequent and more reliable service.

But what remains to be determined in Kent is whether to put the route along James Street (aka South 24oth Street) or Canyon Drive (aka South 256th Street) to connect with 104th Avenue Southeast. The route will connect Kent to Auburn via Central Avenue and to Renton along 104th/108th Avenue Southeast.

“One of the big questions in Kent is where this line gets from downtown up the East Hill,” said Greg McKnight, RapidRide project manager, during a May 21 City Council workshop.

Metro plans to return to a council workshop in July with a recommendation about which route to use after further staff analysis as well as community input. The King County Council will choose the alignment after consultation with the city of Kent.

Whether James Street or Canyon Drive is picked, the street that isn’t chosen will still have regular bus service, just not the RapidRide system.

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.

“It will serve Valley Medical Center (in Renton), a lot of housing and a lot of employment,” McKnight said. “It’s a very transit-rich corridor. It serves a lot of riders which is why it was considered for further investment.”

Riders will be able to use the route to transfer to the RapidRide F Line that connects Renton, Tukwila and Burien, including the Tukwila light rail station.

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.

RapidRide buses send signals to traffic lights, so green lights stay green longer or red lights switch to green faster.

“They have all-door boarding that allows buses to move more quickly without waiting for everybody to file through the front door,” said Hannah McIntosh, RapidRide program director, at the council workshop.

Metro operates RapidRide on Kent’s West Hill along Pacific Highway South, part of the A Line that connects the Federal Way Transit Center and the Tukwila light rail station.

Councilmember Dennis Higgins looks forward to the new RapidRide extension.

“This is the East Hill’s rapid transit,” Higgins said. “In our lifetimes, we will not get light rail or a train running up there, this is East Hill’s rapid transit from Auburn to Kent and Renton, so it’s really important we get it right.”

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