Sound Transit to host open house Thursday on Des Moines light-rail extension

Sound Transit press release:

Sound Transit is kicking off the process for working with South King County communities on options for extending high-capacity transit service. The effort will help shape alternatives for building high capacity transit from South 200th Street to Kent/Des Moines, as well as a shovel-ready plan for reaching the heart of Federal Way.

Community members are invited to attend two open houses as part of an early scoping process. The process will help Sound Transit identify options that will be evaluated in an alternatives analysis over the next several months.

Des Moines
4-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at Highline Community College (Building 2), South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South

Federal Way
4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 at Truman High School (Gym), 31455 28th Ave. S.

Community involvement is a vital part of the early scoping phase of analyzing alternatives to expand high capacity transit 7.6 miles between the future light rail station at South 200th Street and the Federal Way Transit Center, including review of routes, configurations and station locations. The agency and the Federal Transit Administration are seeking public comment on the scope of the project, including the purpose and need for the extension, the range of alternatives, and the evaluation criteria to be used to compare alternatives.

The public’s involvement will help identify the best investments under available funding, which has been significantly impacted by the national recession’s reduction of local tax revenues. Current forecasts show that funding available through 2023 for projects and services in Sound Transit’s South King County subarea is now 41 percent lower than expected in 2008. However, the agency remains on solid footing to continue forward with major expansions.

“South King County residents can help shape vital investments for a future marked by increased congestion and increased demand for fast and reliable transit,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “Our financial challenges in the wake of the national recession make it more important than ever for citizens to come together. This process will not only define what the agency builds with current funding but help us solve funding challenges so we can go further.”

Under a realignment process the Sound Transit Board began in 2010 in response to the recession, funding forecasts show it is within the agency’s reach to extend light rail to the Kent/Des Moines area in the 2023 timeframe, while continuing to work on options for extending services further southward. While the agency does not currently have sufficient resources to extend light rail south of Kent/Des Moines, the planning and environmental process getting underway will establish a shovel-ready plan for extending service further southward to South 272nd Street and the Federal Way Transit Center in the event additional resources are identified.

The shovel-ready plan all the way to the Federal Way Transit Center will support finding solutions to funding impacts by bringing costs into focus; ensure Sound Transit 2 investments are consistent with eventual service to Federal Way’s major transit hub; and secure a federal environmental record of decision (ROD) that will support expediting construction once funding is identified. Subject to available funding, voters have already approved expansions to South 272nd Street. Future voter approval is needed for extending services beyond there.

The alternatives analysis process will meet federal requirements by studying other modes in addition to light rail. Following the alternatives analysis phase of work, the Sound Transit Board is expected to identify which options to evaluate in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) next fall. After the Draft EIS is released in late 2014, further public involvement will inform the Board’s identification of a preferred alternative. The alternatives will then be further evaluated in a Final EIS supporting Board selection of a final alignment and station locations and seeking a ROD from the Federal Transit Administration in 2016.

The agency’s next steps will be shaped by planning and environmental review now getting underway as well as the ongoing Sound Transit 2 realignment process. Managing project costs is a critical priority for maximizing the benefits of transit expansions for local residents in the wake of the recession.

Citizens unable to attend the open houses can find additional background and meeting materials, and submit comments online at www.soundtransit.org/FWextension, by email to FWTE@soundtransit.org, or by writing to Kent Hale, Sound Transit, 401 S. Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98104. Public comments during the early scoping process are requested by Nov. 19.

More information about the project is available at: www.soundtransit.org/FWextension.

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