The Sound Transit board voted Thursday on several measures to improve and expand Sounder commuter train service in the South Sound region, including expanding train layover facilities in Lakewood.
The $13.2 million layover expansion, which will add a third track at the Lakewood yard, paves the way for the regional transit agency to add three weekday round-trip trains from Pierce County to Seattle by the end of 2017.
The first addition, a late morning/late afternoon train, is to come on line in September with two more round trips slated to begin next year.
That would bring the number of weekday round-trip trains between Lakewood and Seattle to 13.
The board chose Shimmick Construction to design and build the expansion.
“Sounder commuter rail is more popular than ever,” said Dow Constantine, King County executive and chairman of the Sound Transit board.
The agency estimates ridership between Lakewood and Seattle grew by 15 percent during the third quarter of 2015 as compared to the same timeframe in 2014.
Also Thursday, the board voted to restore money to improve Sounder stations in Kent and Auburn, including adding more parking and improving access for pedestrians and bicyclists.
That work was approved by voters in 2008 as part of a Sound Transit ballot measure, but it had to be put on hold when the Great Recession decimated tax revenues.
An improving economic outlook has allowed the agency to begin developing detailed plans for the Kent and Auburn improvements. A competitive bidding process will take place later this year.