A shot looking north of the columns being constructed in SeaTac on Feb. 10, 2021, as part of the Federal Way Link Extension. Photo courtesy of Sound Transit

A shot looking north of the columns being constructed in SeaTac on Feb. 10, 2021, as part of the Federal Way Link Extension. Photo courtesy of Sound Transit

Report: Federal Way light rail maintenance sites would uproot dozens of residents, businesses

Public comment period runs through April 19.

Sound Transit’s draft environmental impact statement shows two possible sites for the Link light rail Operations and Maintenance Facility in Federal Way that would uproot dozens of residents and businesses.

An Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF) is where light rail trains go for cleaning, storage and maintenance. To keep its entire light rail system functioning, Sound Transit needs to strategically locate four OMFs that operate 24 hours a day, year-round.

Sound Transit studied three sites for the facility in the draft environmental impact statement: the Midway Landfill in Kent, and South 336th Street and South 344th Street in Federal Way to house, maintain and deploy 144 light rail vehicles. The OMF South site will provide 470 living wage jobs.

On March 5, Sound Transit released the draft, prepared in compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), to inform the public, tribes, government agencies and decision makers about the alternatives and environmental consequences of the OMF South site.

Sound Transit’s mainline is a principal track connecting stations to OMFs. For Federal Way, the mainline is set to be built as part of the Tacoma Dome Link Extension and will be constructed regardless of which OMF site is selected, the draft states.

A spokesman for the City of Federal Way said other additional OMF locations were eliminated prematurely when narrowing down to the three current alternatives.

“It would have been preferable not to remove other locations initially in order to have a full review,” said Steve McNey, communications and government affairs coordinator for the city. City officials had hoped for greater consideration of other close regional locations, “instead of two Federal Way sites and one that’s clearly a damaged option.”

South 336th Street alternative site

The South 336th Street alternative location is a 59-acre site between S. 336th Street and S. 341st Place and between I-5 and Pacific Highway 99. The option is projected to cost about $1.2 to $1.4 billion and will be finished completely in about three and a half years.

This option requires 1.4 miles of connecting mainline track from the Federal Way Transit Center station, then becoming either a 40 mph or 55 mph elevated track as part of the Tacoma Dome Link Extension.

The first alternative site, which would include the OMF building, the Maintenance of Way building, the Link System-Wide storage building, storage tracks, training track, about 435 parking spaces and an approximately 7.2-acre yard area. The site would also include elevated light rail tracks from the northeast and southeast corners of the site.

The South 336th Street alternative extends perpendicular to I-5, and includes the removal of Christian Faith Center and Pacific Christian Academy (33645 20th Ave. S.) and two businesses with about 94 employees.

South 344th Street alternative site

The South 344th Street alternative is a 62-acre location between S. 336th Street and S. 344th Street and between I-5 and 18th Place South. The alternative is projected to cost about $1.2 to $1.4 billion in total and is set to be finished in about three years and four months.

This second alternative site requires 1.8 miles of connecting mainline track from the Federal Way Transit Center station to the site. It would contain similar Tacoma Dome Link Extension connecting tracks as the South 336th Street option, either aligned with Enchanted Parkway or I-5.

Similar to the prior alternative, South 344th Street alternative would contain the OMF building, the Maintenance of Way building, the Link System-Wide storage building, storage tracks, training track, 435 parking spaces and an 11.2-acre yard area.

The South 344th Street site, more parallel to I-5, removes the Ellenos Yogurt manufacturing facility and GarageTown private storage, both of which “may also be difficult to relocate due to their lot size and specialized facility requirements,” the draft states.

In total, the South 344th option displaces 11 businesses (about 217 employees and an additional 31 employees for the mainline route), including about 60 unit owners of GarageTown.

The South 344th alternative site also displaces three churches, including Cross Life Community Church and Family Life Community Church (located in the same building) and Voice of Hope Church.

Resident and ecological impacts

Operations for either of the Federal Way locations anticipates about 73-77 daily truck trips during construction.

“Due to their locations within developed urban areas, the South 336th Street and South 344th Street alternatives would cause the greatest number of displacements, particularly for residents and employees, as compared to the Midway Landfill Alternative, which is primarily undeveloped,” the draft states.

The Tacoma Dome Link Extension mainline route will displace between 47-59 residents of the Belmor Mobile Home Park regardless of whether the Federal Way OMF locations are selected. However, the South 336th Street site would further displace 14 additional residents while the South 344th Street site would remove 20 more residents.

Other concerns with the Federal Way alternatives include disruption of local ecosystems such as the Hylebos Creek tributary. The South 336th Street site may impact 12 acres of mature native forest and 3 acres of other native forest, while the South 344th Street alternative may impact 6 acres of mature and other native forests.

“The South 336th Street Alternative would have the greatest impacts to ecological resources, including streams, wetlands, and mature native forest, in part due to permanent impacts to a stormwater detention facility and wetland through which the West Fork Hylebos Creek Tributary flows,” the draft states. These options also require relocating portions of East Fork Hylebos Creek Tributary, causing permanent impacts to nearby wetlands and forested riparian habitat.

Public comment open through April 19

The 45-day public comment period is open through April 19. At the end of the comment period, Sound Transit will create a public report of all comments, to be considered by the Board of Directors to identify a preferred alternative, which will be evaluated along with the other alternatives in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement’s anticipated publication date is 2022. Following publication, the Board will select which OMF South alternative to build.

During the 45-day Draft EIS comment period, the public can submit formal responses online, via email, by voicemail, by regular mail or during one of two online public meetings.

Sound Transit started construction in 2020 on a 7.8-mile extension of light rail from Angle Lake Station in SeaTac to the Federal Way Transit Center. Two light rail stations will be built in Kent and one in Federal Way. The estimated $3.1 billion project is expected to open for service in 2024.

The Operations and Maintenance Facility will cost another $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion (depending on the site) with the earliest potential opening date of 2029.

The public is invited to attend an online open house from March 5 through April 19 at https://omfsouth.participate.online.

Two online public meetings will take place 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 24 and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 30.

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