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Sound Transit restores funding for Auburn, Kent Sounder station access projects

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Improved revenue forecast positions agency to move forward with better parking, pedestrian, other access improvements at two high-demand Sounder facilities

The Sound Transit Board of Directors today restored funding for the Auburn and Kent Sounder Station Access Improvement projects, paving the way to build more parking, pedestrian, bike and other improvements at two high-demand stations.

“I am very pleased that the needs of South King County transit riders are being addressed by Sound Transit,” said Sound Transit Boardmember and Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. “And I am honored to be able to vote in favor of these improvements during my very first Sound Transit Board meeting.”

The Board’s action today directs staff to begin work to develop the projects. Staff will return to the Board later this year with a proposed contract award for an alternatives analysis that will start the review of potential access improvements.

Voters approved the Kent and Auburn Sounder station access improvements in the 2008 Sound Transit 2 (ST2) ballot measure. The 2007-2009 Great Recession wiped out $4.2 billion from projected ST2 tax revenues, with South King County among the hardest hit at an estimated loss of $1 billion. In response, in 2010 the Sound Transit Board kicked off an ongoing realignment process to bring project plans in line with the lower revenue forecast. Kent and Auburn projects were among those that were moved to suspended status until funding could be identified.

Last November, staff informed the Board that revenue projections for ST2 revenues had improved. The Board directed staff to evaluate which suspended projects could be funded within updated agency resources. After careful evaluation, staff determined that sufficient resources exist to restore funding to the Kent and Auburn station access projects. Staff will continue to closely monitor the financial plan and work to advance several other suspended projects, where possible.

Ridership on the popular Lakewood-to-Seattle Sounder line continues to experience double-digit growth since service began from Tacoma nearly 16 years ago. Third quarter weekday ridership grew 15 percent last year compared to the same period in 2014, and special service to Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders FC games remain the top travel choice for many sports fans.

Sounder commuter rail service operates 10 daily roundtrip trains Monday through Friday at nine stations in Pierce and King counties. The Board’s decision to restore funding for Kent and Auburn station access improvements comes as the agency prepares to add three round-trip trains to accommodate ridership growth. Sounder south riders will see a new mid-day train this fall and two peak-service roundtrips next year.