Sound Transit Board approves three sites to study for light rail maintenance facility

Midway Landfill in Kent; two Federal Way locations.

The former Midway Landfill in Kent and two sites in Federal Way will be part of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study about where Sound Transit should build a light rail vehicle Operations and Maintenance Facility.

The Sound Transit board voted 15-2 Thursday in Seattle to follow the recommendation of the agency’s System Expansion Committee two weeks ago to consider the following sites to be studied over the next 18 months or so for a facility scheduled to open in 2026.

• Midway Landfill, west of Interstate 5, which has been closed since the 1980s and is owned by Seattle Public Utilities. Estimated cost: $1.3 billion.

• South 336th Street near I-5, which is the location of the Christian Faith Center church and school in Federal Way. Estimated cost: $750 million.

• South 344th Street near I-5, which is an industrial area in Federal Way, includes several businesses: Garage Town, which offers private custom storage facility; an RV storage facility; and Ellenos Yogurt Factory. Estimated cost: $800 million.

The Operations and Maintenance Facility needs to be built to service and store more than 140 light rail vehicles, according to Sound Transit. The facility requires at least 30 acres and would employ an estimated 300.

“I’ve never heard of such a popular landfill before and all of the other sites are unpopular,” said Claudia Balducci, a Sound Transit Board member and King County Councilmember prior to the vote and after numerous people testified in favor of the landfill site and against the other sites. “But that cannot be our basis for a decision.”

Balducci explained that the agency must consider more than one site during a Draft EIS and if the landfill turns out to be too expensive, other alternatives are needed.

Once the Draft EIS study is done, the board will pick a preferred site – potentially in late 2020 – for the Operations and Maintenance Facility that will serve the light rail line on the south end. The agency plans to extend light rail from SeaTac to Federal Way by 2024 and from Federal Way to Tacoma by 2030.

The board’s vote also confirmed the committee’s withdrawal of the Lowe’s/Dick’s Drive-In site on Kent’s West Hill at South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South as an option because of plans by the cities of Kent and Des Moines for transit-oriented development near the light rail station to be built just north of Dick’s.

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell and Federal Way City Council members Susan Honda, Jesse Johnson and Martin Moore each testified at the board meeting in favor of the Midway Landfill site and against the sites in their city.

“It is the perfect site,” Johnson said about the landfill.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph thanked the committee during her testimony for taking the Dick’s Drive-In site off the list because of the city’s plans for development, including housing, around the light rail station coming to Pacific Highway across from Highline College.

“Kent supports further study of the I-5 alignment with the landfill,” said Ralph, who added the city is willing to work with Sound Transit about how the landfill is the site to build the facility.

Board member Paul Roberts, a Everett City Council member, voted in favor of the three sites being further studied but voiced concerns about the landfill.

“There are environmental issues building on a landfill,” Roberts said. “And I want to make sure we look at the legal issues and liabilities to build on a landfill.”

Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus and Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier each voted against moving the three sites forward. Neither one spoke at the meeting about reasons they were against the motion.