It could cost the city of Kent $2 million to help pay for the extension of Veterans Drive and a new State Route 516 interchange as part of the state’s Puget Sound Gateway plan to connect State Route 509 between SeaTac and Kent with Interstate 5.
The City Council on Tuesday, June 19, will consider approval of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to commit $2 million towards construction of the project.
Crews are expected to begin the first phase of work on the 6-mile extension of SR 509 in 2020 and complete it in 2025. The second phase would wrap up in 2030. But DOT officials are lining up the local contributions of $130 million for the SR 509 project and the SR 167 extension in Pierce County.
“This is something we’ve worked on for the last few years after passage of the 2015 transportation package by the Legislature,” said Kelly Peterson, city Public Works special projects manager, in a June 4 report to the Council’s Public Works Committee.
When legislators approved the $16 billion statewide transportation project, they included a directive in the $1.8 billion Puget Sound Gateway package that local contributions need to pay $130 million of the cost.
“This is unprecedented what the state has done to the local municipalities to require a local match for a state highway construction project,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said at the committee meeting. “None of us are happy about this.”
Former Mayor Suzette Cooke, Mayor Dana Ralph and Public Works staff worked with state and other local officials to help figure out funding since legislators didn’t include any specifics about who would cover local costs.
The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma are paying a total of $60 million toward the $130 million. Federal and state grants are expected to cover $50 million, leaving $20 million for local agencies to provide for matching funds – $10 million to the SR 509 work and $10 million to SR 167 construction.
As a city that will directly benefit from the project with improved routes for trucks and cars, Kent’s portion includes $1 million for the Veterans Drive extension that will go underneath I-5 and $1 million for a new I-5 interchange at SR 516 aka Kent Des Moines Road. The total cost of those two projects is $33.8 million.
Kent is in the running for a Puget Sound Regional Council grant of $4 million to help pay for the Veterans Drive extension, Peterson said. City staff expects to find out in October whether Kent will receive the grant.
That money, however, would not reduce Kent’s $2 million obligation. City officials haven’t figure out a source yet for the $2 million. But that money wouldn’t be due to the state for about seven years, when the first phase of work is completed.
If the council approves the MOU, city staff will begin to work on an interlocal agreement with the state DOT. That contract would specify the amount of payments and when the city must pay. Peterson said he was unsure of a timeline for when the council would have an interlocal agreement to consider.
The Public Works Committee of Higgins, Toni Troutner and Brenda Fincher voted 3-0 to recommend that the full council approve the MOU. City legal staff told Higgins that the MOU doesn’t bind Kent to pay $2 million but an interlocal agreement would. Higgins raised concerns about the state DOT possibly coming back to Kent to ask the city for more money.
Peterson said there’s a chance the construction schedule could be accelerated by the state, which could mean a reduction in the $130 million local contributions.
Other cities helping to pay for the SR 509 project include SeaTac at $2 million and Des Moines at $500,000. SeaTac’s figure includes right-of-way donation rather than actual payments. Those cities, and the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, also must sign MOUs. The Legislature has requested the MOUs to be submitted by July 1.
An 11.9 percent per gallon jump in the state gas tax will cover most of the Puget Sound Gateway project. The state also plans to raise $180 million from tolls on SR 509.
Kent extended Veterans Drive to Military Road in 2006 to help prepare for the extension of SR 509. City Public Works Director Tim LaPorte said initial state planning for the SR 509 extension began in the early 1960s. The highway connects SeaTac to Seattle, but ends near South 188th Street.