Sound Transit Board approves Kent parking garage site for train commuters

Sound Transit plans to start construction in 2021 on a new parking garage in Kent for train commuters. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

Sound Transit plans to start construction in 2021 on a new parking garage in Kent for train commuters. COURTESY GRAPHIC, Sound Transit

The Sound Transit Board approved on Thursday a preferred site for a new Kent parking garage for Sounder train commuters.

The site is south of East James Street and west of Central Avenue North. The garage is estimated to add approximately 500 new parking spaces. The board also identified a proposed package of pedestrian, bicycle and transit access improvements. The board prioritized projects as the most effective at improving non-motorized access to the station, though the projects themselves may change during design and environmental review, according to a Sound Transit press release.

“As Sounder ridership continues to grow, these improvements will go a long way toward alleviating parking issues at these high-demand stations,” said Dave Upthegrove, Sound Transit Board member and King County Council member, about new parking garages in Kent and Auburn. “Easy, reliable access to transit is crucial in south King and Pierce counties, where residents experience some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.”

Sound Transit staff identified four potential sites in Kent for the estimated $65 million garage. A stakeholders group as well as the majority of train commuters surveyed favored what staff labeled as Site 3. The Kent City Council approved the site in October.

Construction on the garage is expected to start in 2021 and be completed in 2023, according to transit documents.

Sound Transit will move the project forward over the next two years to prepare for preliminary engineering and environmental review.

Voters approved the Kent Station Access Improvements Project on the 2008 ballot measure to expand mass transit throughout the region. The economic recession forced suspension of funding in 2010, but the Sound Transit Board restored funding in 2016. Improving easy and reliable access to the station for all users will be necessary as ridership and service increase.

Commuters now park at the Kent Station garage, 301 Railroad Ave. N., which opened in 2001, just north of West Smith Street. The garage and surface lot provide 996 parking spaces but fill up quickly and drivers use nearby Mill Creek neighborhood as well as downtown streets to park. Sounder trains carried about 1,900 daily riders in 2016 in Kent. Ridership is projected to go as high as 3,000 daily in 2025.

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