Sound Transit explores options for more parking in Auburn

The purpose of Sound Transit’s second parking garage in Auburn is to increase access for all riders to the Auburn Sounder Station, in whatever way those riders get there.

Sound Transit took its initial steps in January to scout alternative sites for what the ST2 Plan initially proposed as a 600-stall, multi-level, parking garage on the existing surface lot west of the current station platform, a net increase of 500 stalls.

But Sound Transit does not have the world to choose from for alternatives, and available land in the surrounding neighborhood is scarce. Community resources and areas where parks exist are tough to build on and carry with them numerous regulatory requirements and costs.

“We have been working through identification of potential improvements and evaluation of the improvements. Where we are now … is working toward identification of the preferred alternative,” Sandra Fann, Sound Transit’s project director for the Auburn site, told the Auburn City Council on Monday.

In addition to pedestrian and bike improvements, new bus and transfer facilities, transit speed and reliability improvements, and potential expansion of the kiss n’ ride areas as proposed in the Sounder Station Access Study, Sound Transit staff are looking at potential off-site parking along the existing bus route.

Once the preferred site and set of improvements are identified, Fann said, Sound Transit will shepherd them through environmental review and preliminary design, followed by final design and construction.

Fann said it typically takes up to seven years to complete a parking structure of the proposed size.

“Assuming a parking structure is what’s constructed out of this project as well as other improvements, the garage could be open to the public in 2023,” Fann said. “If there are some other improvements in there as well, some of those could actually occur earlier.”

Some possibilities

The four site alternatives are as follows:

• First and B Streets parking lot; potentially offering up to 545 net new and 675 total stalls; existing on-site development rights until 2020; no major environmental concerns; constrained site, right-of-way acquisitions needed; high potential for necessary traffic mitigation; estimated cost $60.4 million;

• Ace Hardware; up to 580 new net and total stalls; right-of-way acquisition needed; no major environmental concerns; reasonable access to platform; pedestrian bridge needed; lower potential for traffic mitigation than alternative above; estimated cost $75.7 million;

• Sound Transit parking lot: up to 525 and 635 total stalls; no major environmental concerns, extremely narrow site requires substantially more garage infrastructure per stall; estimated cost $80.9 million;

• Union of Aerospace Machinists; up to 550 net new stalls; no indication yet as to whether the union would be a willing seller; reasonable access to platform; could be connected to existing garage; high potential for necessary traffic mitigation; estimated cost $65.3 million.

“At this point, we’ve done the majority of the evaluation of this phase, and now we’re looking for input from council, stakeholders and the community,” said Karen Kitsis, development director for Sound Transit and future director of the Auburn project.

“There is an element of trade-off; if there’s a site that’s closer to the budget, then more of the infrastructure would then be available. If a site is further away from the budget, then it’s a trade-off between infrastructure that would need to be built, meaning the number of stalls that would be able to be built as well,” Kitsis said.

The amount available in the ST2 finance plan is $60 million.

Major elements factored into cost estimates are as follows: property acquisition; relocation and interim lots; garage construction; where appropriate, pedestrian bridges, frontage improvements, garage access improvements, parking technology; permits and art; management and administration; non-motorized improvements; and contingencies appropriate to the level of design.

Sound Transit completed construction on Auburn’s Sounder commuter rail station and transit center on the BNSF Railway tracks in 2000. It opened the parking garage in 2003, raising the total available parking spaces to 633. As of April 2016, there were 687 parking spaces at Auburn Station.

Voters in the Sound Transit district approved an additional parking garage for Auburn in 2008 as part of the ST2 package. But the Sound Transit board suspended the project in 2010 because of the Great Recession, when sales tax revenue for the agency came up shorter than projected. The board restored funding last year for parking garages in Auburn and Kent.

Sound Transit plans to add two peak hour commuter rail trips in September between Lakewood and Seattle, which was part of the ST2 package. The ST3 package will eventually extend Sounder platforms in Auburn and other stations to serve trains up to 10 cars in length, carrying 40 percent more passengers.

The agency has formed a stakeholders committee to help pick a parking garage site. On the committee are representatives from the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce, Green River College, transit riders, neighborhood councils, local businesses and property owners and bicyclists.

Sound Transit’s surveys show that 57 percent of Sound Transit riders access Auburn’s present station by car, 14 percent by bus, 10 percent are dropped off by car, 9 percent get there on foot, 6 percent make it there by bicycle, and 3 percent get there via a van or car pool

The estimated construction cost is included in the 2017 proposed transportation improvement plan for Sound Transit.

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