Sound Transit’s open house leaves questions unanswered

During the open house at the Federal Way Performing Arts and Events Center, public comment was limited to written responses

At an open house event at the Performing Arts and Events Center in Federal Way, Sound Transit presented the current status of the six potential operations and maintenance facility sites and asked for written public comment.

While there was no public comment during the event, residents were able to share their concerns with Sound Transit staff members before and after the presentation.

The current OMF sites Sound Transit is looking at include the Dick’s Drive-In and the Midway Landfill site in Kent near I-5 and SR-99, and Christian Faith Center in Federal Way. Another Federal Way location the agency is considering includes a site with several businesses: Garage Town, an RV Storage Facility, as well as the potential new location for an Ellenos Yogurt Factory, said Scott Thompson, public information officer for Sound Transit. The last site being looked at is near Steel Lake Park in Federal Way at 316th St near I-5.

Fawn Spady, current president of the Dick’s Drive-In franchise with the newest location in Kent, told the Mirror she is upset and concerned about the lack of transparency Sound Transit has shown.

Spady said she didn’t find out Sound Transit was looking at the Dick’s Drive-In location until the month before it was announced to the public, despite being told it was one of the 24 locations Sound Transit had previously been looking at for over a year.

“It’s a very disappointing process,” she said.

Spady was also frustrated at the lack of oral public comment at the open house.

“In my opinion, they don’t really want true public input,” she added.

One of the previous sites of the original 24 Sound Transit considered included the former Weyerhaeuser Campus in Federal Way, now called Woodbridge Corporate Park. It was removed when Sound Transit narrowed their list to the current locations, but it is unclear what requirements they didn’t meet to be taken off the list. Sound Transit did not respond to the Mirror’s requests for comment on this.

Several other residents at the open house expressed concerns about the review process, but the only options the public has for submitting comments is in writing at open house events or online.

Austin Nielsen, government community relations officers for Sound Transit, and Curvie Hawkins, Jr. gave a similar presentation to the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce Luncheon March 6.

Neilsen said both the light rail and the OMF will have a significant economic impact, creating 370,000 direct jobs over 25 years.

Sound Transit will be adding more than 60 new stations to help connect the light rail to areas like Everett, Bellevue and Tacoma. The light rail system will be 116 miles long with 61 total new stations.

The construction will also include an increase parking and access improvements to help expand total capacity by 40 percent, Neilsen said.

Hawkins said the OMF site will allow the light rail vehicles to be cleaned and maintained during their off hours from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Cheryl Cole-Hurst, active community volunteer, raised her hand during Hawkins’ presentation to voice her concerns about the extended track requirements the OMF site will need.

“This was never discussed when we gave ya’ll the yes vote,” she said.

Hurst said it seemed like Sound Transit was not as transparent as they could have been when they first announced the OMF site plans.

“It’s kind of like saying, ‘Oh, now we’re gonna move in and we’re gonna have 3 million trains and we’re gonna… change a church property or change wild waves or change Enchanted Parkway.” Hurst said. “Go six blocks down, go a mile down, go to industrial. Has anybody discussed industrial areas?”

And while Sound Transit is still looking at the sites to determine if they would be a good fit, they are looking to get started on this project as quickly as possible.

“We haven’t made any decisions on this but we are trying to speed our decision-making,” Hawkins said.

Sound Transit wants to select the OMF site in the next two years, he said.

The Federal Way to Tacoma light rail extension will stretch 9.7 miles with four stations and two parking garages with 27,000-37,000 daily projected riders. The light rail extension will go to South Federal Way, Fife, East Tacoma and the Tacoma Dome. The light rail extension’s scheduled opening is 2030, Hawkins said.

The OMF requires 30 acres of relatively flat land, and upon completion will be able to house 130 light rail cars.

At a Kent City Council meeting March 5, Mayor Dana Ralph and other council members also shared questions and concerns with Sound Transit over their potential sites.

Sound Transit’s next open house is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. March 21 at Highline College in Des Moines.

The current scoping period ends on April 1.

This story will continue to be updated as information becomes available.

Past coverage can be found on the Federal Way Mirror site and the Kent Reporter site.

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