City looks at where to put Transit’s second garage

Sound Transit’s Auburn Station Access Improvement Project will not only build a second parking garage in Auburn, it’s going to install non-motorized improvements like shared use paths, transit shelters and intersection improvements in and around downtown Auburn.

But where and how much are questions at the moment.

On Monday, the Auburn City Council met in study session to talk about the latest project developments and the four site alternatives now identified for the garage, as follows and in descending order: the old Mel’s Lumber site on 1st Northeast, approximately 545 parking spaces; Auburn Lawn and Garden, approximately 580 parking spaces; the existing Sound Transit surface lot, approximately 525 parking spaces; and Union Hall south of the existing Sound Transit garage, approximately 550 parking spaces.

And perhaps choose from among them.

But several issues have complicated the choice.

First, the council anticipated that by Monday it would have had in hand a recommendation from the Auburn Transportation Advisory Board, which met on Sept. 27, 2017. But the TAB, short at that meeting of the members required to take official action, could not even reach consensus on a preferred site.

Also, at that same meeting, Jeff Oliphant, JLO Washington Enterprises, Inc., made an unsolicited proposal to develop a large parking garage on the old Mel’s Lumber site and portions of adjacent City owned street right-of-way.

Sound Transit has indicated that following the completion of this phase of the project, it can sit down with parties such as Mr. Oliphant “consistent with the organization’s guidelines for unsolicited proposals.”

Problem, Sound Transit Project Manager Sandra Fann told the council, those guidelines have yet to be written because Sound Transit has never before received unsolicited proposals.

While council members expect to consider a resolution on Oct. 16, 2017 that would recommend to the Sound Transit Board of Directors a preferred parking garage site, councilman Rich Wagner said he wanted the Oliphant proposal factored into the mix for cost comparisons and for any changes it may make to the time schedule, before next week’s regular meeting.

“If you decide to look at alternatives, and you have to give an offer for others to compete, how much time does that chew up in 2018,” Wagner asked, referring to the year Sound Transit expects to select the project it will build.

“That’s a good question that I don’t know were able to answer right now,” said Chelsea Levy, government and community relations manager for Sound Transit. “I think it’s fair to assume it would take more time, but exactly how much time I couldn’t say right now. “

Sound Transit’s board expects to consider a preferred parking garage site in November 2017. At the same time, the board will also consider advancing non-motorized improvements to be included as part of the overall project.

Sound Transit launched the alternative development and screening phase of the project in early 2017, and ever since then, the agency, its consultant team and city staff have been working with the City’s Transportation Advisory Board and residents, citizens and businesses to identify potential parking garage sites and options for non-motorized improvements.

The project’s timeline calls for construction to start in 2021 and finish by 2023.

At the Sept. 27 TAB meeting, city staff, Sound Transit staff and TAB members talked over some of the project issues and reached consensus on the following:

• That the chosen site maximize the parking to be provided;

• That the chosen site minimize the traffic impacts within the city and getting into and out of the garage; and

• That there was a lack support for a parking garage on the existing Sound Transit surface lot or the Union Hall site.

City staff later tried to contact all of the TAB members who were not at the Sept. 27 meeting to determine if there was any interest in reconvening the board so they could provide feedback. Only two of them replied, and while both expressed support for the old Mel’s Lumber site, they were not interested in reconvening the board.