Sound Transit Board approves Federal Way site for light rail maintenance facility

The Sound Transit Board of Directors approved the South 336th Street site on Dec. 16 as their preferred alternative for the incoming Operations and Maintenance Facility South.

In a 14-1 vote, the board approved the South 336th Street location over the former Midway Landfill in Kent and a proposed South 344th Street location in Federal Way. The OMF South will house 144 light rail vehicles for maintenance, cleaning and storage.

The lone “no” vote came from board member and King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, who represents the Federal Way area.

Von Reichbauer said his vote was not a reflection of the work put in by staff members and the System Expansion Committee to identify and analyze each alternative, but instead is a reflection of the angst and the concern of the Federal Way community.

The preferred alternative selection process appears to be looking at “the least harmful alternative, not the most beneficial,” he said of the three sites.

The South 336th Street site will now be the focus of the Final Environmental Impact Statement study. The OMF South final location decision is expected in late 2022.

These types of decisions are difficult, said Claudia Balducci, chair of the SEC committee and a King County Councilmember, at the meeting. On Dec. 9, the Systems Expansion Committee presented and voted on its recommendation of South 336th Street.

The South 336th Street alternative “balances Sound Transit’s aggressive expansion needs” while also minimizing the business and residential displacements, she said.

The SEC heard “loud and clear” that the South 344th Street site location is a unique area in Federal Way and King County, and would cause too much disruption to the lives of residents and businesses, she said.

On the other hand, the Midway Landfill is “too risky of a choice for Sound Transit to pursue,” she said, due to its cost, timeline, construction, safety and impacts to future development.

The OMF South is expected to be reach final design and construction between 2023-2029 with an opening in late 2029. The facility will offer upwards of 470 living wage, union jobs in addition to the undetermined amount of construction jobs necessary to build the facility.

Board member Roger Millar said efforts should be made to ensure the facility’s positions are filled by people from Federal Way and South King County, as opposed to a majority of the jobs being held by people outside of the area.

The South 336th Street location poses its own challenges, including the displacement of about 73 residents and two churches.

“That loss would represent a clean exit,” said Brian Lawler, legal representative for Federal Way megachurch Christian Faith Center.

Selection of the South 336th Street alternative results in a total loss of the current church campus, and though the church would prefer not to be in any of the alternatives, Lawler said, this decision allows the church to make “lemonade out of lemons.”

There are also major ecological concerns because the South 336th Street site causes the biggest impact to surrounding protected wetlands.

Board member Dave Upthegrove emphasized that the ecological concerns and working with city partners should be a top priority moving forward.

The South 336th Street alternative location is a 59-acre site between South 336th Street and South 341st Place and between I-5 and Pacific Highway 99. The option is projected to cost about $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion, and the project completion timeline is about three and a half years, with the facility opening in about 2029.

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Article Source: Kent Reporter