Sound Transit has pushed out completion of a new, second Kent parking garage for Sounder train commuters to 2027.
The agency has postponed the opening date four times since it announced a 2023 opening in 2017. Voters approved funding in 2008 with an expected opening of the garage in 2015.
On Jan. 26, the Sound Transit Board approved a design-build project for the parking garage at Sumner Station, a $49 million 602-stall facility expected to be completed in 2026. At the same meeting, parking garages in Kent and Auburn were postponed until 2o27, according to a Jan. 26 Sound Transit news release.
“Those two garages have moved into 2027 because the planning process took longer than anticipated,” said David Jackson, a Sound Transit spokesperson, in an email. “Those schedules also include four months of project float.”
Design-build contracts are expected to be awarded this year for Kent and Auburn, Jackson said. He said project costs in Kent and Auburn are unavailable until contracts are awarded.
Kent has wanted a second parking garage for many years because the current Kent Station garage, 301 Railroad Ave. N., just north of West Smith Street, fills up with commuters. That, however, has changed since the pandemic struck in 2020.
Parking at the Kent Station garage that opened in 2001 is about 40% full on weekdays, Jackson said. Sounder runs weekdays between Seattle and Lakewood.
Sounder ridership has plummeted over the last couple of years, according to a Jan. 1 report by The Seattle Times. A high of 415,173 riders took Sounder in October 2019. That number sat at 104,879 in November 2022.
According to Sound Transit, Kent had 1,900 average daily boardings in 2019. Kent had 600 average daily boardings in 2022, which is nearly double the average daily boardings in the fourth quarter of 2020 when few rode the train due to the pandemic.
Kent will have 415 net new parking stalls at the new garage, according to agency documents. The garage is planned to be built along Railroad Avenue North, just south of West James Street.
In addition to more parking, the Sumner, Kent and Auburn stations will get access improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. Kent also will receive improved connections with King County Metro buses, which includes 12 routes and a new RapidRide line slated to open in 2026.
Voters approved additional parking garages for Kent and Auburn in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit2 package. The Sound Transit Board suspended the projects in 2010 because of the Great Recession when sales tax revenue for the agency came up shorter than projected.
The agency’s board restored funding for the Kent and Auburn garages in 2016. But the impact of COVID-19 on sales tax revenue for Sound Transit caused the agency to further delay the Kent and Auburn projects.
The board voted 16-0 on Jan. 26 to approve a resolution to move the parking garage projects forward at Sumner, Auburn and Kent with a total budget of $359.6 million.
”I truly appreciate the opportunity to see this finally come to fruition,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, also a Sound Transit Board member.
Kent City Council President Bill Boyce said during a Jan. 27 phone interview that the city had not yet received any official notice from Sound Transit about the delay, so he declined to comment about the 2027 date.
Kent parking garage delays
• 2008: Voters approve new parking garage to open in 2015
• 2010: Project delayed due to Great Recession
• 2016: Sound Transit restores funding
• 2017: Sound Transit releases opening date of 2023
• 2020: Opening date postponed to 2024
• 2021: Opening date postponed to 2025
• 2022: Opening date postponed to 2026
• 2023: Opening date postponed to 2027