News releases

Sound Transit Board identifies preferred alternative for light rail extension to Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way

Publish Date

Project proceeds to final environmental review; Board to select project in late 2016

The Sound Transit Board of Directors today identified a preferred alternative for extending light rail to Kent/Des Moines and, when funding is available, to Federal Way. The route, with stations near Highline College, South 272nd Street, and the Federal Way Transit Center, would travel along the west side of Interstate 5 between stations and maximize future transit-oriented development around the stations.

“Identifying a preferred route gives us a clear path forward for bringing light rail to Federal Way,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Now we can plan how to support jobs and housing near stations along the corridor through transit-oriented development.”

The preferred alternative includes three stations: one in Kent/Des Moines on the east side of SR 99, another in Federal Way at the Star Lake park-and-ride at South 272nd Street, and a third at the Federal Way Transit Center. Staff will also evaluate potential modifications in the Kent/Des Moines and Federal Way station areas.  

“This is a great day for South King County,” said Sound Transit Boardmember and King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “The more affordable option lets us bring more transit to more people – something badly needed in our diverse and low-income community.”

The preferred alternative would extend south from the Angle Lake Station, cross SR 99 and continue along the south edge of the future SR 509 alignment to I-5. It would continue south along the west side of I-5 before transitioning west in the Kent/Des Moines area to serve Highline College. The alignment would continue south along the west side of I-5 to the S 272nd Star Lake Station and terminate at the Federal Way Transit Center.

The Board identified the preferred alternative after receiving public feedback on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) published in April. The Board’s action today directs project staff to advance design and complete environmental review, during which staff will evaluate potential modifications to alignment and station options. 

Among these potential modifications, staff will study ways to optimize the Kent/Des Moines preferred station option between Highline College and 30th Avenue South to facilitate access to Highline College and enhance potential future transit-oriented development in the Midway area. 

Staff will also evaluate re-aligning the preferred station option at the Federal Way Transit Center along 23rd Avenue South. This potential change would facilitate multimodal connections to the existing transit center, accommodate a future light rail extension south along I-5 or SR 99, and support the potential for future transit-oriented development downtown.

We are making steady progress on getting light rail to Federal Way,” said Sound Transit Boardmember and King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “Next steps in planning include optimizing design of the Federal Way Transit Center Station to enhance train and bus connections and encourage future transit-oriented development downtown.”

The Board also directed staff to evaluate how Sound Transit and its partner agencies can improve the potential for transit-oriented development at station locations in the corridor. Areas of study could include ways to improve east-west transit service, facilitate better connections from RapidRide service on SR 99 to future light rail stations, and improve pedestrian and bicycle access to transit stations. Staff would also evaluate place-making initiatives and development opportunities.

“This decision enables Sound Transit to continue important work to take light rail further south – work that includes partnering with other agencies to find ways to improve transit integration and support transit-oriented development at and near station locations in the corridor,” said Sound Transit Boardmember and King County Councilmember Joe McDermott.

The agency plans to publish a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in the fall of 2016, with the Board selecting the project to be built by the end of that year. Final design is scheduled to begin in 2017 and construction in 2019, with service to Kent/Des Moines beginning in 2023. 

By 2023, Sound Transit is on track to operate nearly 50 miles of light rail service northward to the University of Washington, Northgate and Lynnwood, eastward to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake area, and southward to Kent/Des Moines. Link is expected to carry more than 80 million riders annually by 2030. 

In 2008 voters approved the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure, which included plans for extending light rail south from the City of SeaTac to Kent/Des Moines and the northern boundary of Federal Way. After the recession wiped out 29 percent in projected ST2 revenues, funding to construct light rail south of Kent/Des Moines is no longer available. In 2012, the Board allocated $24 million to develop a shovel-ready plan for extending light rail further south to the Federal Way Transit Center when funding for construction is secured.