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Light rail: Sound Transit explores possible routes to FW

Sound Transit is evaluating alternatives to extend light rail from the future Angle Lake light rail station on South 200th Street in SeaTac to the Federal Way Transit Center, a distance of about 7.6 miles. Currently, there is projected funding to build the extension to Kent/Des Moines. - Courtesy of Sound Transit
Sound Transit is evaluating alternatives to extend light rail from the future Angle Lake light rail station on South 200th Street in SeaTac to the Federal Way Transit Center, a distance of about 7.6 miles. Currently, there is projected funding to build the extension to Kent/Des Moines.
— image credit: Courtesy of Sound Transit

Representatives of Sound Transit were in Federal Way this week to give updates on the "alternatives analysis" related to potential alignments for a light rail connection to the city.

The five alignments for a possible connection to Federal Way include two that would move along I-5, two that would move along SR 99, and one that would dip into the city of Des Moines.

This whole process is to make the project "shovel ready" in case funding - which Sound Transit thought it would secure with the 2008 ST2 ballot measure - becomes available in the future, said Cathal Ridge, light rail development manager.

At the Federal Way City Council's June 18 meeting, Ridge explained that the next stage of project development is the public comment period for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

"We're moving forward on this process all the way down to Federal Way…(that) if we can find or come across funding at some point in the future, we'll be able to move forward with the project development process, and have the (EIS) already in place," he said.

Two changes had occurred since Ridge last presented before the council in March. The first was the development of a "hybrid" alignment along SR 99, and the other was the inclusion of "transit oriented development" (TOD) in Sound Transit's planning processes.

Ridge indicated that the "new" alignment along SR 99 would switch back and forth along the east and west side of the roadway, in an attempt to avoid issues with major intersections along that route. This is being considered, he said, because of cost factors that would be involved with building the connection through those intersections.

In addition, right-of-way issues would have to be taken into consideration, Ridge said.

"Obviously, the issue with that is it would have commercial or residential impacts on whatever side of the street it happens to be on," he said.

Transit oriented development is a planning tool Sound Transit recently integrated into its planning processes that looks at a number of factors when considering large-scale projects like this, Ridge said.

"It looks at a number of things," he said. "We looked at population, households, employment, activity centers."

Essentially, transit oriented development is an attempt to see if planned projects will be built in an area with access and populations to use them. Ridge said they looked at the TOD opportunities along the alignment routes, and also in conjunction with the possible station locations that would be built as part of any future project.

Ridge said that TOD did come into consideration with two new station locations that had been suggested by the public in the previous round of public comment. Those locations were along SR 99 at 216th Street and 260th Street, he said, but cautioned that those ideas are probably pretty much static for now.

"These (stations) were not considered in the ST 2 plan, they were not voter approved. We cannot use ST 2 funding to construct these station locations," he said, referring to the Sound Transit 2 proposal that voters approved in 2008 to bring light rail to South 272nd Street in Federal Way.

Sound Transit has enough funding to build light rail from South 200th Street to Kent/Des Moines (near Highline Community College). Light rail may not reach the northern edge of Federal Way until 2034 or later. The ultimate goal is to connect light rail to the Federal Way Transit Center.

Public comment

Those interested in providing comment can mail a letter to Kevin Hale, Sound Transit, 401 Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98104, email FWTE@soundtransit.org, visit www.soundtransit.org/FWextension or attend a public meeting and fill out a comment form.

The first public meeting was held June 19 at the Federal Way Transit Center. Another meeting is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. June 26 at Parkside Elementary in Des Moines.

 

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