Sound Transit parking garage project under way

The closed, fenced-off city parking lot northwest of the 1st Street Northwest and A Street Northwest intersection isn’t much to look at.

But consider this: it is the first tangible sign that Sound Transit’s long-anticipated, second transit parking garage project in Auburn is finally under way.

On April 2, Sound Transit closed and fenced off the former parking lot, once the site of Mel’s Lumber, to complete geotechnical investigatory work related to the garage ST plans to build on the site. According to Sound Transit, its contractor could begin work as early as the second week of April.

“Sound Transit is proceeding with their project per their schedule,” Auburn Public Works Director Ingrid Gaub said recently.

In the meantime, there are other options for getting to a Sounder Station.

Park at Kent Station: There are 996 parking spaces at Kent Station (301 Railroad Ave. N). In recent weeks, only about half have been typically in use.

Take transit to Auburn Station: King County Metro route 181 serves the Outlet Collection, Green River College, and other areas. KCM route 184 serves southeast Auburn. Pierce Transit route 497 serves Lakeland Hills. Muckleshoot Tribal Transit is a free shuttle serving Muckleshoot Indian Reservation, Muckleshoot Casino, Auburn Safeway, and Auburn Outlet Collection Mall.

Bike to the station: There are 32 BikeLink lockers available at Auburn Station for 5 cents per hour.

Travel on Mondays or Fridays: Demand for parking spaces is typically highest mid-week. Consider switching your travel days to Mondays or Fridays when parking is typically available.

The project

Auburn’s project is to include a parking garage with up to 675 stalls and other amenities that will enhance traffic calming and pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Here is how things got to this point.

In November 2008, voters in King and Pierce counties approved access improvements to the Puyallup, Sumner, Kent and Auburn Sounder Stations as part of the Sound Transit 2 (ST2) ballot measure to expand mass transit throughout the region.

Until recently, there had been a problem in the way of construction — a city-owned easement overlay on the parking lot, which had allowed city employees who work at 1 Professional Plaza a block east to park at the site. That easement had to be “extinguished” before work began.

On Jan. 4, 2024, the Auburn City Council approved an agreement on how to proceed with the negotiations between the city and ST to reach the final resolution.

During project development and environmental approval, Sound Transit and the city of Auburn had considered that the city-owned parking would henceforth be accommodated in the new parking garage, as documented in a letter of concurrence dating to February 2020.

But the complexity of accommodating Auburn’s third-party easement interest within this federally-funded transit garage caused Sound Transit and Auburn to reconsider — and agree on a purchase approach for the parking easement after consultation with the Federal Transit Authority.

The resulting agreement provided a process for the parties to negotiate and mediate a final value for the parking easement rights — and, if negotiation and mediation fizzled, provided for the valuation of the rights to be established through binding arbitration.

Upon relinquishment of the city’s easement interest, either via possession and use, or a final agreement or arbitration award, Sound Transit would accommodate the city’s parking needs in the existing Auburn parking garage, with an initial term of three years to be free of charge, and two additional, one-year extensions during which time the city would pay its proportionate share of operating costs.