Sounder Train commuters now park at the Auburn Station garage, 23 A St. SE., but they should expect a second parking garage in Auburn within the next six years, possibly sooner.
Sound Transit officials began taking steps this month to find sites for what the ST2 Plan 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. The estimated $24.8 million cost is included in the 2017 proposed transportation improvement plan for Sound Transit.
“This is just a representative scope; there is some flexibility as to what the project ends up being when it is fully constructed,” Sandra Fann, Sound Transit project manager, cautioned the Auburn City Council at its study session on Monday.
“Long time in the making,” Chelsea Levy, government and community relations manager for Sound Transit, said of the project, to the nodding of council heads.
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.
Sound Transit completed Auburn’s Sounder commuter rail station and transit center on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe 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.
Levy said Sound Transit has not yet narrowed down 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.
“… The idea is that by looking at this we could have a mix of different types of improvements that make up the ultimate project,” Fann added.
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.
“The good news is last year, as revenue forecasts were looking much more positive, the Sound Transit board in January approved a motion to bring back these two access projects, and for staff to begin forming teams for the projects, establishing a budget and getting going on these two access projects,” Fann said.
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.
“Now we understand that you at the City of Auburn have waited a long time for a parking garage, and the public really wants a parking garage, so the Sound Transit Board has asked us to expedite project delivery, so that’s what we are trying to do with this project,” Fann said.
“So, opening in 2023 is the expedited plan?” asked Deputy Mayor Largo Wales.
“That is not the expedited plan,” Fann responded. “That is more the traditional process.”
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 later this month to help pick a parking garage site. That committee could include representatives from the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, Green River College, transit riders, neighborhood councils, local businesses and property owners and bicyclists.
Open houses for the public about the project are expected in February and April, with dates 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.
“We hope to get through in eight months what takes 18 months,” Fann said of the timeline.