As part of the Federal Way Link extension, Sound Transit drafted four alternatives that would connect the Angle Lake Station, which is expected to open in 2016 on Pacific Highway (SR-99), to the currently unfunded Federal Way Transit Center. The Kent-Des Moines station, expected to open by 2023, is the first stop after Angle Lake. Voters approved S. 272nd Station in 2008, but there is not yet funding to get there. Funding to construct the all the way to Federal Way could come from grants or a future ballot measure. The alternatives follow I-5, stay on SR99, or switch between them with Kent/Des Moines as a transition station. ST is also considering additional stations on SR99 at S. 216th St. and S. 260th St.
ST has as many as eight potential locations for the Kent-Des Moines station. Project Team Manager Sandra Fann said that the details of these locations are not yet officially decided, but all of them are expected to be accessible to the Highline campus. Some of the options include having the station on the east side of campus; west east, or in the median of the Pacific Highway South (SR-99); west or east of 30th Ave South, or along Interstate 5. “These locations are based on a combination of ideas brought up by cities along the way and logic from an alignment perspective,” Fann said.
City officials from Kent, having already massively upzoned their share of the station area, prefers the station to align with SR-99 while the City of Des Moines would rather have the light rail go on I-5.
Kent City Councilmember Dennis Higgins said he prefers an alternative that serves the people and neighborhoods by the station. “Generally speaking I think a routing down the freeway median doesn’t meet that criteria,” Higgins said. “I know such routes are more disruptive during construction but in the long run they serve the public much better.”
Des Moines Mayor Dave Kaplan agrees with the city of Kent about having a light rail station accessible for Highline College students. However, he said he would rather have the line follow I-5 and SR-509 with the station on I-5.
“We wouldn’t line up with the station as chosen by the voters when they approved ST2,” Kaplan said. “We wouldn’t wind up with the station directly in Des Moines so the only thing we would wind up with is the impact that would break down SR-99 (Pacific Highway). We aren’t interested in having the impacts of that, we’ve already impacted it with number of things like the airport and other things over the years.”
Des Moines City Councilmember Jeanette Burrage said that one of the things that the city is most concerned about is using up too much of their scarce commercial property with Sound Transit’s footprint. Burrage added that Des Moines is one of the cities with the fewest commercial areas and that they need the revenue to fund city services.
“We understand and respect what Kent wants in terms of minimal impact on the area where they want the transit-oriented development,” Kaplan added. “But the alignment is the bigger concern.”
Sound Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason said that Sound Transit will focus on four criteria to help determine the best alternative to determine both the alignment and location of the Kent-Des Moines station in the Federal Way Link Extension: conceptual design, cost and performance, environmental effects, and transit oriented development potential.
Ms. Reason said that there will be a 45-day comment period following the completion of the EIS draft. Both cities, as well as the public, will then be given the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns regarding the EIS. The public comment period is expected to be the end of 2014 or early 2015.
“We have been doing very robust outreach in this corridor,” Reason said. “We want to give the communities as mamy opportunities as possible to let them know what is happening with these [transit] projects and the options that go with the station locations.”
Following publication of the Draft EIS in late 2014 or early 2015, the Sound Transit Board is scheduled to identify a preferred alignment alternative and station location alternatives in early 2015. The final EIS is scheduled for publication in early 2016, with the Board selecting the project to be built around mid-2016. The Federal Transit Agency (FTA) is scheduled to issue a Record of Decision in late 2016.
“Once we have the record of the decision, we can then aggressively pursue whatever funding we can go after,” said Reason.
That funding became important after Sound Transit’s tax revenues took a major hit during the recession. The Sound Transit 2 plan was originally slated to raise more than $17 billion in revenues from 2008-2023, but the recession wiped about $4 billion off the original projection.
“We had to realign what we could accomplish,” Reason said. “The good news was that we have funding to extend the Angle Lake Station to Kent-Des Moines station… But we do not have the necessary funding to construct all the way to Federal Way Transit Center at this time.”