A second Kent Sounder Station parking garage for train commuters remains two years away from construction, but Sound Transit recently approved the parking and access improvements.
Agency staff also received Sound Transit Board approval to purchase five full parcels and 19 easements in order to build a garage that will have up to 534 parking stalls, according to Sound Transit. The garage will be built along Railroad Avenue North, just south of West James Street.
With planning, design and permitting still to be done, construction is expected to begin in 2022 with the parking garage scheduled to open in 2024, said Sound Transit spokesperson Rachelle Cunningham in a Feb. 14 email. That opening is a year later than what transit officials said a few years ago, but then the city of Kent has waited many extra years for the project.
Voters approved additional parking garages for Kent and Auburn in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit2 package. The board suspended the project 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.
“It represents a significant milestone to the city and community,” said Dave Upthegrove, a Sound Transit board member and King County Council member, at an agency committee meeting Feb. 14 to approve the parking and access improvements project. “The previous board embraced hard policy decisions, the board faced budget constraints and made policy to put off certain projects. Station access are projects that were expected in those communities and were not able to be delivered.
“That we can meet those now means a lot to those communities. It matters a lot to the city and community in the downtown area. And it speaks to the talent of our staff and the city and agency to look at a win-win and an opportunity to move forward. I know everyone’s excited about what will be happening at Kent Station.”
The estimated cost of the Kent Sounder Station project is $116 million, which includes planning, permits, design, and construction of all project elements including traffic mitigation, bus layover space, bike-ped improvements and the parking garage, Cunningham said.
Kent city staff and Sound Transit had a few disputes earlier in the planning process about how to handle King County Metro buses in the area. The plan includes conversion of an existing Sound Transit parking lot on First Avenue North to a bus layover facility, as well as improvements for a future Metro RapidRide stop, scheduled to open in 2023 that will connect Auburn, Kent and Renton. The layover area would include about eight bus bays and displace 49 existing stalls for transit riders. Those displaced stalls are accounted for in the proposed parking garage.
“We are pleased to see Sound Transit moving forward with this long-awaited downtown parking garage, and will be working closely with their staff in coming months as the design is developed,” said Matt Gilbert, city Economic and Community Development deputy director, in a Tuesday email.
Gilbert said he expects Sound Transit to present its design plans to the City Council later this year for review.
The project includes:
• Pedestrian improvements at Railroad Avenue North and West Smith Street, including a painted curb extension, rapid flashing beacons, a hardscape median with pedestrian refuge and restriping of crosswalks and curbs
• Smart bike lockers and bike racks in the station area to improve bicycle access
• A new sidewalk, crosswalk, painted curb extension to provide traffic calming and restriping along Railroad Avenue North to support access to a new RapidRide stop on Railroad Avenue
• A new sidewalk connection to the garage on the south side of James Street between Railroad Avenue and Central Avenue North
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.
“The number one thing we hear (at community meetings) is a request for more parking,” said Chelsea Levy, Sound Transit South Corridor development director, at the System Expansion Committee meeting.
The building of the garage is expected to require the removal of the Washington Cold Storage warehouse, 621 Railroad Ave. N. The facility has an 18,000-square-foot freezer storage room. Washington Cold Storage also has a warehouse in Puyallup. The company did not return an email for comment about the garage project and the future of the business, which would include relocation costs paid by Sound Transit.
Allen Merrill, who owns two other properties that Sound Transit plans to purchase, said he hasn’t heard anything yet from the agency.
“Sound Transit has made noises for over two years regarding the properties,” Merrill said in an email. “As far as I am concerned they want to talk or host town meetings etc. just to look busy and protect their jobs, total waste of taxpayers money.”
Melvin Hamilton, Sound Transit real project property manager, told the agency’s System Expansion Committee that letters were sent to property owners and public notices were printed earlier this month in the Seattle Times.
The full Sound Transit Board approved the properties to buy at its Feb. 27 meeting.
Besides Kent and Auburn, Sound Transit will open new Sounder garages in Puyallup in 2022 and in Sumner in 2023.