On Thursday, the Sound Transit Board of Directors met to decide on the fate of more than a dozen paused capital project actions. Nine capital project actions were identified for advancement and funding with agency staff directed to prepare the actions for final approval. The board also approved the annual Transit Development Plan and action to begin the process to surplus two sites at Angle Lake Station for third-party development for affordable and market-rate housing.
Unpaused capital project actions
Over the spring and summer, Sound Transit had been grappling with the economic consequences of the pandemic that has threatened the viability to deliver capital projects on-time and within financial constraints. That led to many capital projects to be paused until the agency and board could get a better handle on what financial capacity there is and what project actions should be a priority ahead of a wider capital program realignment next summer. Agency staff had identified 15 capital project actions that were in a paused status and could be considered for advancement.
On Thursday, the board chose to identify nine capital project actions for advancement, pending final approval in October or November, including:
- The Kent and Auburn Station Parking and Access Improvements project ($4 million) to execute a design-build project management contract with a contractor that will focus on alternatives for project cost savings;
- The South Tacoma and Lakewood Station Parking and Access Improvements projects ($4 million) to start project development at South Tacoma and alternatives development with a contractor for both projects;
- The Sumner Station Parking and Access Improvements project ($6 million) to execute a design-build project management contract with a contractor that will focus on alternatives for project cost savings;
- The I-405 BRT North and I-405 BRT South projects ($13 million) to authorize preliminary engineering and general engineering contracts for both projects;
- The SR-522 BRT project ($1 million) to authorize a general engineering contract;
- The Everett Link and Operations and Maintenance Facility North project ($16 million) to start project development and alternatives development with a contractor;
- The Everett Parking Agreement ($700,000) to reimburse the City of Everett for construction of station parking;
- The Madison BRT Agreement ($35.8 million) with the City of Seattle to partially fund the project and qualify for federal funding; and
- The RapidRide C Line Agreement ($4.5 million) with the City of Seattle and King County to facilitate improvements to the line, particularly in relation to the West Seattle Bridge closure.
At a previous meeting, agency staff had not recommended advancement of funding agreements for the RapidRide C and D Lines and Madison BRT. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine pushed back though saying that the funding agreements were imperative this year to keep the projects eligible for federal funding. Thus, Kent Keel, the board chair, proposed restoring funding for the Madison BRT project and partial funding for the RapidRide C Line to support King County Metro during the West Seattle Bridge in this year’s budget; the remainder of project funding for the RapidRide C and D Lines is still on hold. Additionally, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier pushed for a walk-on funding item for the South Tacoma and Lakewood Station Parking and Access Improvements, to which the board agreed.
However, there are still seven capital project actions that will remain paused until next year. These include:
- The Sound Platform Extensions project ($3 million) to start project development and alternative development with a contractor;
- The Sounder Maintenance Base project ($212 million) to execute a design-build project management contract with a contractor and establish a baseline budget for construction;
- The Bus Base North project ($12 million) to execute a design-build project management contract with a contractor;
- The NE 85th St Interchange Agreement (~$275 million) with the Washington State Department of Transportation to rebuild the interchange with I-405 BRT North features;
- The Bus On Shoulder project ($1 million) to authorize environmental review and conceptual engineering;
- The North Sammamish Park-and-Ride project ($2 million) to authorize environmental review and conceptual engineering; and
- The RapidRide C and D Lines Agreement (~$25 million) with the City of Seattle and King County to facilitate improvements to the lines.
Angle Lake Station surplus sites
Sound Transit will make two sites, approximately 1.4 acres in size, at Angle Lake Station suitable for redevelopment. The sites are no longer necessary for transit purposes, which means that the agency can surplus them for other uses. The agency intends to put the properties up for third-party acquisition for affordable and market-rate development. With authorization to proceed, agency staff will move forward with development and issuance of a “request for proposals” on each site and select top-ranked proposals by third parties for negotiation. Once that is completed, agency staff will return with formal agreements for approval by the board.
The north site, which is approximately 0.77 acres in size, will be offered first to qualified affordable housing entities, such as housing authorities, local governments, and non-profit developers. To reduce development costs of the site, the agency is also authorized to offer the land at no cost or at a reduced cost despite its appraised $2.2 million fair market value. Meanwhile, the south site, which is approximately 0.63 acres in size, will be offered on the general real estate market for market-rate development. The property has been appraised at $1.75 million for fair market value.
Despite their size and adjacency to the light rail station, the sites are not without their issues. “It should be noted that there are several factors presenting challenges for developing housing on these properties, including the neighboring federal correctional facility and proximity to the airport. The sites are within the Sea-Tac Airport 65 decibel Day Night Level, which means that residential development requires sound insulation components,” an agency report explains. “In addition, Sea-Tac cargo operations are expected to expand in the next 10 to 20 years to the site to the north and west of the parcels, which may have significant light, noise, and odor conditions which would need to be addressed by any housing developer. Likewise, in 2018, an agency-commissioned financial feasibility analysis concluded that affordable housing development would be difficult to finance where these sites are located.”
These issues could pose some challenges to development, but the vicinity has seen other multifamily and mixed-use developments sprout up in recent years and the close proximity to light rail remains a huge asset, so the challenges are probably not insurmountable.
It also bears mentioning that under the 80/20 policy, at least 80% of all surplus land declared suitable for housing development must be made available for affordable housing development with at least 80% of units being offered to households making 80% or less of the area median income. In recent years, Sound Transit has offered five other sites for affordable housing development, which is why one of the two Angle Lake Station sites can be offered for market-rate development, fulfilling the 80/20 mandate.
If these surplus and redevelopment efforts at Angle Lake Station are successful, perhaps in future years the agency will declaration other portions of the station site to be suitable for housing or mixed-use development. Large swaths of surface parking permeate the station site, so making highest and best use of them could improve light rail and public transit use in the area.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.