The Link light rail extension to Federal Way is up next for federal funding approval, but Sound Transit is looking beyond for its future operational needs once the Tacoma Dome extension is completed in 2030. Among the priorities is identifying sites for an operations and maintenance facility (OMF), which is the subject of an ongoing search and environmental review.
Sound Transit is considering six general sites between Highline College and southern Federal Way for the OMF, which would require a 30-acre plot of generally flat land that is adjacent to the proposed route of the Federal Way Extension. One of the options, at the site of the recently-opened Dick’s Drive-In and a Lowe’s home improvement store, is causing a ruckus that has mobilized city officials in Kent.
The Dick’s-Lowes site is obviously causing some controversy, as the beloved burger chain opened its first South Sound location there a month ago after a public poll pulled the region ahead of the Eastside. The implications of an OMF on potential transit-oriented development around the Kent/Des Moines Station, located two blocks north, were also cited by Kent city officials. The city council passed an emergency zoning ordinance last week that would specifically prohibit the construction of a transit OMF within the Midway subarea, which it had zoned for mixed-use development.
Kent, with support from Federal Way and Des Moines, is instead asking Sound Transit to remove the Dick’s/Lowes site from further consideration and choose one of five other alternative sites that are being studied for the OMF’s environmental impact statement. Chief among them is the Midway Landfill, a decommissioned landfill that sits slightly to the south of the Dick’s/Lowes site but would potentially require costly environmental cleanup. The landfill was closed in 1983, after nearly two decades of accepting local industrial waste, and was added to the EPA’s Superfund program in 1986. The EPA and City of Seattle finished construction of a cap in 2000 to prevent gasses from escaping the landfill, but it would need to be redesigned to accommodate use for an OMF. The additional costs of building at the landfill, which would require careful environmental cleanup and mitigation, could be backfilled using brownfield development grants from the federal government, but there have yet to be specific estimates released to the public.
According to the Kent city government and the Kent Reporter, there are three other sites that are under consideration: a rural lot on the east side of I-5 near South 320th Street; and two sites located further south from Downtown Federal Way that would be connected by the Tacoma Dome Extension and thus pose less disruption to Link operations.
In an email to STB, Sound Transit said it plans to complete early scoping for the OMF project by summer, which will be taken into the two-year EIS process. The OMF itself would be open in 2026, in time to receive and store an expanded LRV fleet that is being prepared for the Tacoma Dome, West Seattle, and Ballard extensions.
While having an enclosed trainyard might “spoil” the area’s chances at attracting good mixed-used TOD, it’s not exactly the end of the world. The East Link OMF near the Spring District in Bellevue will integrate several office buildings that serve to buffer the OMF from the rest of the development, which is quite close to the 120th Street Station. By siting the OMF within walking distance of the station, it’s possible that operator changes would be little more than an extended dwell time at the station rather than an extra stop like SODO’s current changeovers.
A public hearing is scheduled to take place on February 5 at 7 p.m. in the Kent City Council chambers. With the coverage that this decision is getting due to the brand appeal of Dick’s, this meeting might be worth the spectacle.