Public opinion supports light rail facility at former Midway Landfill in Kent

Sound Transit report shows heavy opposition to Lowe’s/Dick’s site

Residents and public officials strongly support Sound Transit building a light rail vehicle Operations and Maintenance Facility on the former Midway Landfill on Kent’s West Hill rather than at the Lowe’s store and Dick’s Drive-In site.

The Kent City Council, Federal Way City Council, Federal Way Public Schools and Seattle Public Utilities (which owns the landfill) sent letters to Sound Transit in favor of one of the two landfill sites for the facility, according to a 30-page scoping summary report released Monday by Sound Transit.

Kent officials also asked that the Lowe’s/Dick’s site be removed from consideration.

Sound Transit received a total of 950 public comments about the Lowe’s/Dick’s site near South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South (aka State Route 99). Of those stating an opinion, 865 opposed the site for the facility and 25 supported the site, according to the report.

“Major themes for comments opposed to this site were related to property acquisition and relocation and neighborhood impacts,” according to the report. “Major themes for comments in support of this site were related to cost-effectiveness and fewer impacts to wetlands and other environmentally critical areas.”

About 730 comments mentioned support of Dick’s, 355 for Lowe’s and 155 for the Midway Shopping Center, including Starbucks and Domino’s.

Three sites in Kent, two in Federal Way and one in unincorporated King County are under consideration for the more than 30-acre facility to clean and service light rail vehicles. Sound Transit needs the maintenance facility for its extension of light rail from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way by 2024 and to Tacoma by 2030.

The Sound Transit Board is expected to decide at its May 23 meeting how many of the sites to advance to be studied in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). A draft EIS will be published in 2020, and a final EIS will be published in 2021. Final design, construction and testing of the facility will take place from 2021 to 2026. Operations of the new maintenance facility will begin in 2026.

The 18-member board, composed of appointed public officials from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, will consider information from the public in the scoping report as well as staff reports before deciding the sites to move forward. The public comment period ran from Feb. 19 through April 1. More than 3,400 people participated in an online open house, about 370 attended two open houses in Federal Way and Kent and more than 1,400 written communications were received.

“Seattle Public Utilities indicated the (landfill) site could likely be redeveloped and restored to productive use without compromising the remediation or worker safety,” according to the report, with supporting information submitted from the Environmental Protection Agency and its studies of the landfill, just west of Interstate 5, and south of the Lowe’s/Dick’s site.

About 615 comments supported the former Midway Landfill site for the maintenance facility and 45 opposed the site.

“Major themes for comments in support of the landfill were related to the lower number of residential and business displacements, the use of undeveloped land and the responsibility of government to clean up an otherwise unusable site,” according to the report. “Major themes for comments opposed to the landfill sites were related to potential dangers of releasing hazardous materials and higher costs associated with developing on a landfill.”

Other sites under consideration and public comments include:

• South 316th Street and Military Road, which had 60 comments opposed to the location and 50 in favor. Residential homes would be displaced. Sound Transit also would need to build an overpass for the light rail tracks over I-5. Fewer businesses would be displaced compared to other sites.

• South 336th Street and I-5, 85 comments supported this site and 50 opposed it. The Christian Faith Center church would need to be relocated, but the costs are lower and fewer residential and businesses would be displaced.

• South 344th Street and I-5, which had 105 comments against the site and 45 for it. The site would include residential and business displacements. But costs are less and access is better.

The Operations and Maintenance Facility scoping summary report is available online on the Sound Transit website.

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