Sound Transit told Auburn residents in 2016 that it would build the city’s second parking garage starting in 2021 and wrapping up in 2023.
It budgeted $60 million for the garage, to be built over the site of a present-day parking lot northwest of Auburn City Hall.
But now COVID-19 has stepped in, putting a question mark on exactly when the residents of Auburn may actually see the promised 535 new parking stalls and the array of access improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.
It’s about money.
According to Sound Transit, with some businesses still closed and many people out of work, the pandemic has cut deeply into the sales revenues it relies on to pay for transit construction. On Sept. 21, the agency announced that its Board of Directors is in the process of deciding which transit expansion project timelines to adjust.
“In light of this process, we’ve temporarily paused some actions on the Auburn parking and access improvements project while the Board is considering the larger picture,” ST announced. “In the coming months, projects may move forward incrementally as the Board continues to assess broader program-wide schedule adjustments.”
“We’ll conduct a formal outreach period early next year to gather public feedback, and the Board will establish clear expectations about project delivery timelines by summer 2021.”
The agency is also considering potential pauses to Sounder parking garage projects in Kent and Sumner.
“There has been no decision made regarding the parking garages for Auburn, Kent and Sumner,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, who is a representative for South King County on the ST board. “While they may be delayed, they have not been cancelled.”
Backus said the Sound Transit board has been reviewing many options for all of the projects.
“There is a recommendation from staff that seven of the 15 projects – including the Auburn garage – that were previously paused be considered for moving forward with some action this fall,” Backus said. “For Auburn, the staff recommendation is to develop lower cost scope and contract packaging options to determine if the projects can be delivered within the Transportation Improvement Plan estimates.”
Backus said that she, King County Councilmembers Pete von Reichbauer and Dave Upthegrove, and Kent Mayor Dana Ralph sent a memo to Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff detailing their prioritized project recommendations.
“Our first priority is the building of the garages that were promised under ST2. The other priorities were ranked as extended platforms and more cars, and then last on our list was more headway,” Backus said.
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.