by TIM BOND
Sound Transit held an open house for the S 200th Station on Wednesday evening. This was an opportunity for the public to explore the station features and alignment. Sound Transit had many staff members on hand with over 130 residents in attendance.
South 200th Station will be an elevated station connected to SeaTac/Airport Station by a 1.6 mile elevated guideway. The station will feature off-street parking, a kiss and ride facility, bicycle amenities including racks and lockers, and a bus transfer area (currently the station area is only served by Metro’s RapidRide A Line—which stops a block away). The station itself would span over S 200th Street making it quite visible by those that pass by on International Boulevard.
The station and alignment are still under preliminary design. Sound Transit would like to accelerate construction and move the opening date from 2020 to 2016. The cost of accelerating construction is approximately $40 million (in addition to the estimated $300m for station and alignment construction). This is due to additional financing costs as well as operational costs for starting service four years early. Sound Transit applied for but was not awarded a TIGER II grant. So far, ST has secured or is recommended to receive $15m in grant funding:
- $7m of CMAQ funding for the right-of-way phase through grant competitions through the Puget Sound Regional Council.
- ST is recommended to receive a total of $8m (spread over 2 biennia) through the WSDOT Regional Mobility grant competition. The Regional Mobility grants are expected to be awarded by the WA legislature this spring.
There aren’t any open grants at the moment, but when there are, Sound Transit will be submitting applications. Sound Transit is also conducting value engineering to determine if costs of the project can be reduced. More after the jump.
The station and alignment are still undergoing preliminary design. In May, the Sound Transit Board will be presented with a 70% design and will vote on whether or not to proceed with accelerated construction. There are several reasons to accelerate construction:
- this extension would open at the same time as U-Link, completing all the Sound Move projects by 2016;
- right now it is a very good climate for ST to solicit bids;
- adding a station increases ridership, and this station is particularly helpful for those coming from the south end of King County; and
- opening this station would relieve parking pressure at Tukwila International Boulevard Station.
The elevated trackway will connect to the tracks currently at SeaTac/Airport and continue south on airport property. From there, the alignment will continue south along the east side of 28th Ave S. Because the alignment is elevated, the physical footprint on the ground is minimal therefore requiring few property acquisitions. The columns would be placed between the sidewalks and the edges of the existing parcels where possible. Because the guideway would extend over some properties, Sound Transit would need to acquire vertical easements for some parcels. Because the alignment hasn’t been approved by the board, actual work for acquiring property or easements has not yet been authorized.
I asked how running on the east side compared to using the land on the west side of 28th–all of which is owned by the Port of Seattle. An answer was not immediately available.
Parking is a huge issue for this station. Terminus stations always have the highest demand for parking. The current design calls for a 630 space garage to be built immediately west of the station on the north side of S 200th. Sound Transit’s estimate is that peak demand will be 900 spaces—when the next extension opens, that number would likely drop back down near 600. An important question to ask is whether or not to build the garage for short term needs or for long term needs. Building for the long term means we’re not wasting money that won’t be utilized in the future. Building for the short term allows us to have enough spaces for projected demand as well as surges in ridership for special events. Another important advantage to consider with building a smaller garage is that it encourages riders to use other forms of transportation to get to the garage. For example, riders could use RapidRide A Line to connect to Metro’s underutilized Redondo Heights Park & Ride at Pacific Hwy & 274th or one of Metro’s other Park & Rides.
Another option is to charge for parking. Sound Transit hired a consultant to study paid parking last year. In addition to a capital cost of around $1m, the break-even point for enforcement came out to as much as $3 per space, effectively doubling overall rider costs in a way unlikely to be subsidized by employers. Implementing this would definitely free spaces in Sounder’s parking lots, but it would take ridership with it. Not wanting to kick ridership while its down, Sound Transit instead chose to more aggressively enforce parking regulations and use grant monies to lease nearby lots.
A third option specific to this station is dependent on neighbors. SeaTac Park is a privately owned parking lot whose primary business is serving customers flying out of SeaTac. Their lot is located directly underneath the south end of the station. What happens with this property remains to be seen.
Connecting Bus Service
I also asked about connecting bus service. It is too early to declare any specifics, and Sound Transit can’t say what Metro will do with their bus routes. At the current time, however, there are no plans for Sound Transit to truncate any routes at this station. A representative from Metro was not at the open house.
Continuing updates can be found on Sound Transit’s Airport Link Extension page.