An amendment proposed by Sound Transit Board Member Dave Upthegrove was adopted by the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee on Thursday, May 9, 2019, removing the Kent Dick’s Drive-in site from future consideration for the South King County light rail maintenance facility.

Upthegrove has been a vocal advocate for the removal of this site, located at S 240th St. and SR 99. Over the past several months, he has been part of a coalition that includes City of Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, his constituents, local business owners, and fellow Sound Transit board members to achieve this goal.

“As we grapple with the challenges of runaway housing costs, our growing climate crisis, and ever-present traffic congestion, transit oriented development will prove to be indispensable in our region,” said System Expansion Committee Chair Claudia Balducci. “I commend Dave for effectively and passionately advocating for his community, while ensuring we meet the vision for the future transit oriented development at Kent/Des Moines Station.”

In his March 18 letter to Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, Upthegrove argued that siting such a facility at this location could harm a rare opportunity for transit-oriented development (TOD) adjacent to a light rail station. Of the six sites considered by the Sound Transit board, this site was the only one within the half-mile walkshed of a future light rail station – which according to Sound Transit’s own station area planning documents—should have disqualified the location.

“This site did not meet our established criteria. The impact to transit-oriented development near a light rail station was a serious flaw. It also would have displaced a low-income mobile home community, raising social justice and equity concerns,” noted Upthegrove

Also citing concerns that his constituents in Kent and Des Moines did not want the facility built at this location, Upthegrove argued that as a public agency, Sound Transit had a responsibility to listen to the needs and desires of the citizens who have authorized and funded the regional transit system.

In the letter to Rogoff and his colleagues on the board, Upthegrove stated:

“As an elected official, it is my duty to speak on behalf of and act upon the interests of the people I represent.”

The Sound Transit System Expansion Committee voted to advance three sites, including the Midway Landfill site, into the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) phase of the project. The other two sites advancing are both in Federal Way: South 336th Street and I-5, and South 344th Street and I-5.

The maintenance and operations facility is necessary to accommodate more than 140 new rail cars required to provide service to Tacoma and West Seattle. The site requires thirty acres of flat land adjacent to light rail tracks in South King County.

The unanimous committee recommendation will now go to the full Sound Transit Board on May 23 for final action.

Scott Schaefer

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