News

Sound Transit buys land for center project

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Progress on a transit center proposed in downtown Federal Way lurched forward recently and, barring any hold-ups in court, construction could begin this summer.

Last month, Sound Transit purchased the three parcels of land on which the transit center will stand, including the privately owned Mott property for $315,000, the old Silo property for $2.25 million and the property owned by the Cucina! Cucina! restaurant, which closed its Federal Way location after the sale, for $2.5 million, Sound Transit spokesman Lee Somerstein said.

Last Thursday, the Sound Transit Board’s finance committee authorized the agency to acquire two additional parcels, owned by Cratsenberg Properties, LLC and DCG II, LLC, for temporary construction easement.

The agency can negotiate a purchasing deal with the property owners, but Sound Transit also has the legal authority to condemn the properties in order to acquire them. The three properties so far acquired were purchased, not condemned, Somerstein said.

The Board’s finance committee also authorized Sound Transit to pay relocation benefits to the owners if they’re eligible.

The full board will vote on acquisition of the additional properties Feb. 13.

Meanwhile, Sound Transit is gathering property appraisals for the direct access lanes to Interstate 5 from South 317th Street.

Sound Transit officials are hoping to begin construction on the project — a five-story, 1,200-stall parking garage and transit center and associated direct access ramps to high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Interstate 5 all located at the intersection of South 316th Street and 23rd Avenue South — by the second quarter of 2003.

The project is expected to cost about $51 million.

In March 2002, the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration issued an environmental assessment and an associated ruling that the project would not have a significant impact on the environment downtown.

Following the no significant impact ruling, business owners in the Gateway Center business park filed an appeal, saying the transit center would introduce significantly more traffic congestion into the downtown core and would be responsible for an increase in noise and exhaust pollution, but a hearing examiner ruled in favor of Sound Transit.

Gateway Center business owners took their appeal to King County Superior Court, where a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24. Gateway Center president Dan Casey was unavailable for comment.

Construction of the transit center won’t begin until a judge rules on the appeal, but existing buildings on the properties will be demolished soon.

Even if the judge rules against Sound Transit, the agency owns the property and would demolish the buildings anyway, Somerstein said.

Federal Way city staff currently are reviewing Sound Transit’s land use application to ensure the project meets city requirements and guidelines. If the city approves the permit, Sound Transit will apply for the permits to begin construction.

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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