Peering at an aerial of Sound Transit’s present parking garage at 23 A St. SE., one Auburn native made up his mind where the future Sound Transit parking garage should go.
Would make no sense, said Marcus Crane, gesturing to a circle drawn about a set of possible locations for Sound Transit’s second garage in Auburn, to build it east of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) tracks, cheek-by-jowl with the South Division Street Promenade.
“I think it should be over by Ace Hardware, on the west side of C Street, and I think they ought to put retail down below so it brings business over there,” Crane said.
Crane, co-owner of Nelsen and Crane Real Estate, was one of the earliest through City Hall’s doors to recently attend the first of Sound Transit’s public forums about the long-time-in-coming parking garage, now fully funded and expected to rise within six years, possibly sooner.
Sound Transit started taking steps in January to find sites for what the ST2 Plan had 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, said Sandra Fann, Sound Transit project manager, that surface lot is not the only possible site.
“The assumption had been that the surface lot where there’s a bridge would be converted to a garage. But now that we know this project is funded, we’re looking at that site along with others. So, if another site is actually better, it should be considered,” Fann said.
Problem is, Sound Transit doesn’t have the world to choose from, and available land in that neighborhood is scarce. Community resources and areas where parks exist are tough to build on and carry with them many regulatory requirements and costs, Fann said.
The estimated $24.8 million construction cost is included in the 2017 proposed transportation improvement plan for Sound Transit.
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.
“There could be bike paths, bike lockers, if there is a need for those. We could expand the passenger drop-off areas. With the possibility of Uber and Lift becoming more popular, more people could be arriving. Sidewalk improvements are big. Maybe something could be done to better define the pedestrian path across the tracks so people could feel safer,” Fann said.
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.
Chelsea Levy, government and community relations manager for Sound Transit, recently said the agency has not yet narrowed the number of potential sites for additional parking because it first wants to engage the community and City Council in selecting a site.
“Right now our thought is that we would focus in around the blocks near the station. If I were looking at a map, that would be B Street to the west, Division Street to the east, north to about Second Street, and south to about Third Street. That would be a rectangular area we’re looking at,” Fann said.
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.
Fann said it typically takes up to seven years to complete a parking structure of the proposed size after going through alternative sites analysis, preliminary design, final design and construction. She said it can take 12 to 18 months to select a site after public hearings and studies. Then it’s onto environmental review and preliminary design for the preferred set of improvements with final design and construction following that.
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 plans to form a stakeholders committee to help pick a parking garage site. That committee could include representatives from the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce, Green River College, transit riders, neighborhood councils, local businesses and property owners and bicyclists.
Another open house for the public is expected in April, with the date still to be determined. The agency plans to pick three to five potential sites by March or April and get a recommendation in June from the City Council that will go to the Sound Transit board in August.