Today it is the 1st Street Northwest and B Street Northwest parking lot, just northwest of City Hall.
But by 2023, if all goes according to plan, it will be the site of Sound Transit’s second parking garage in the city, the marquee item for a suite of access improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders known as the Auburn Access Improvement Project.
On Nov. 16, Sound Transit’s Board identified the site as its preferred alternative among a total of four options, which numbered the Ace Hardware store on West Main Street and the present station. The board also identified for Kent a parking garage site south of East James Street. Sound Transit estimates both garages will add about 500 net new parking spaces.
Last month the Auburn City Council chose the old Mel’s Lumber site as its preferred alternative to forward to Sound Transit.
“I am very pleased that the needs of South King County transit riders are being addressed by Sound Transit,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, who is also a Sound Transit Board member. “Many members of the community got involved in the planning process, and they can feel proud that their input helped shape the improvements at these stations that will benefit the region for years to come.”
In addition, the board identified a proposed package of pedestrian, bicycle and transit access improvements at both locations, which it had prioritized as the most effective at improving non-motorized access to the stations.
“As Sounder ridership continues to grow, these improvements will go a long way toward alleviating parking issues at these high-demand stations,” said Sound Transit Board member and King County Council member Dave Upthegrove. “Easy, reliable access to transit is crucial in South King and Pierce counties, where residents experience some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.”
The wrinkle in Auburn’s situation is developer Jeff Oliphant’s private proposal to build a parking garage with perhaps twice the capacity at the old Mel’s Lumber site. Sound Transit has said it would consider that proposal after it had selected its preferred alternative.
Voters approved the Kent and Auburn Station Access Improvements projects in 2008. In 2010, however, the Sound Transit Board suspended funding because of the economic recession. It restored that funding in 2016.
Sound Transit now moves the projects forward to prepare for preliminary engineering and environmental review. The board will make its final decision on the project to be built when this process is complete in 2019.
Ridership on the popular Lakewood-to-Seattle Sounder line continues the growth it has experienced since service began from Tacoma nearly 17 years ago. Third-quarter weekday ridership grew 6.4 percent compared to the same period in 2016, and special service to Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders FC games remain the top travel choice for many sports fans.
Sounder commuter rail service operates 13 daily round-trip trains on its south line Monday through Friday at nine stations in Pierce and King counties. The board’s recent decision comes as the agency just added two new round-trip trains to accommodate ridership growth. The specifics of both projects will be refined as project development advances.