The Sound Transit Board of Directors made a big choice in finalizing the Federal Way light rail extension alignment and station profiles last week. This paves the way for the decision to be sent to the Federal Transit Administration and closes out the federal environmental review process. When the Preferred Alternative was being decided upon in 2015, there was a lot of debate about how the alignment should get to Federal Way. Should it go via SR-99? Should it go via I-5? Or should it be a mix? The ultimate plan is largely an I-5 alignment south of Angle Lake Station with a deviation toward Highline College, which will be a mix of surface and elevated rail along the corridor. Elevated portions will be used to cross major roads and intersections while the lion’s share of surface rail will be placed along I-5.

Approved alignment of the Federal Way Link light rail extension. (Sound Transit)
Approved alignment of the Federal Way Link light rail extension. (Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is poised to move forward on the 7.8-mile light rail extension in 2019. The extension will bring service to Des Moines, Kent, and Federal Way by 2024 and come with three new stations:

  • The Kent/Des Moines station will be located just east of SR-99 and north of S 240th St to provide service in proximity to Highline College and support transit-oriented development along the nearby SR-99 corridor, a goal of both Kent and Des Moines for more than a decade. The station will come with bus transfer and layover facilities, new parking structure for approximately 500 parking stalls, and a new pedestrian and bicycle connection across S 236th St to connect to Highline College. The station will be elevated.
  • The Star Lake station will be located at the Star Lake Park-and-Ride, which is just north of S 272nd St and west of I-5. The area has some medium density multi-family residential in proximity to the site as well as commercial uses, but the area may be best suited for transit-oriented development on the station site itself and Woodmont area just westward to SR-99. The station will come with bus transfer and layover facilities and have approximately 1,200 parking stalls. The station will be elevated.
  • The Federal Way Transit Center station will be the last station on the extension with a location centered west of 23rd Ave S and north of S 320th St. The area is primarily strip commercial and office space today, but could easily support significant transit-oriented development within walking distance of the station. The station would be elevated and oriented toward the south to provide for a future extension to Tacoma. 1,190 parking stalls from the existing parking garage will be retained, but will have another 400 parking stalls added. The transit center will be reconfigured to better provide for bus transfers.

The two park-and-rides and elementary school. (Google Maps)
The two park-and-rides and elementary school. (Google Maps)

Outside of the board meeting, Sound Transit separately co-signed an agreement with King County Metro Transit and the Federal Way School District to proceed on a property transaction deal. Under the terms of the agreement, Metro would allow the school district to acquire its Redondo Park-and-Ride property in exchange for the school district handing over its Mark Twain Elementary School across from the Star Lake Park-and-Ride and future light rail station on S 272nd St. The benefit of this possible exchange is that the school district would have a superior property for students while the old school grounds could be converted to transit-oriented development.

The next major milestone in the light rail extension project will be the final design of the selected stations.

Bel-Red Station Gets Green Light

The Sound Transit Board of Directors also authorized a $93.1 million contract to construct a new light rail station in Bellevue (Bel-Red Station). Situated between 130th Ave NE and 132nd Ave NE at NE Spring Blvd, the station is being constructed as part of the East Link light rail extension. Sound Transit has selected Max J. Kuney Company to build the station and associated improvements. The approved contract also comes with a 10% contingency to guard against rising costs allowing the contract to go as high as $102.5 million.

Rendering of the Bel-Red Station after dark. (Sound Transit)
Rendering of the Bel-Red Station after dark. (Sound Transit)

The contractor will be responsible for constructing the station and approximately one mile of trackage (elevated, retained cut, and at-grade guideway). The scope of the contract also includes: roadway reconstruction and widening, landscaping and irrigation, sidewalk improvements, traffic signal installation, and site restoration. The location of the station is anticipated to allow substantial transit-oriented development to blossom around it over time. The first passengers to pass through the station are expected sometime in 2023.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for promoting sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He advocates for smart policies, regulations, and implementation programs that enhance urban environments by committing to quality design, accommodating growth, providing a diversity of housing choices, and adequately providing public services. Stephen primarily writes about land use and transportation issues.