Sound Transit collects final feedback on station improvements in Sumner

Sound Transit has collected all the public feedback it needs to review and vote on more parking and other improvements at two commuter rail stations in East Pierce County.

But as with neighboring Puyallup, some parts of the City of Sumner’s official position conflict with recommendations from a community-based group organized by Sound Transit.

The Sumner City Council voted 5-2 last week to send the transit agency a letter outlining the city’s preferred access improvements at the Sounder station on Maple Street.

The council’s proposal includes, among others recommendations, a request for an on-site parking garage. The letter didn’t specify a size for the structure, but agency spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said there could be up to 600 spaces. The current surface parking lot at the station has 343 spaces for commuters.

In contrast, a “stakeholder roundtable” group requested that Sound Transit build a 31/2 story parking structure with about 420 spaces at the Washington Tractor property, just south of the station on Traffic Avenue. The members — including residents, business owners and others — also supported developing additional parking spaces at the McLendon Hardware property just north of the station on Fryar Avenue.

Sumner’s vote was held two weeks after the Puyallup City Council took similar action on its own proposal for the West Main Avenue station. Puyallup’s feedback also differed from a proposal from community representatives.

Money for changes at both stations was provided by the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure, approved by voters in 2008. The projects are meant to improve access as demand continues to increase. At the Sumner station, an average of 1,022 riders board a total of 10 round-trip trains every weekday, Reason said, and that number is expected to grow by 70 percent by 2035.

She said the transit board will review all information and vote on plans Aug. 28.

At a special meeting in Sumner on Monday, Nancy Dumas and Curt Brown were the only council members to oppose the letter. Dumas said she supported the recommendation but opposed the timing of the vote. She said such a “monumental” decision should be made at a regular council meeting “in full view of the public.”

Brown opposed the location, siding with the community group in favoring the Washington Tractor site.

Councilman Steve Allsop has strongly opposed a downtown parking garage, stressing that it’s primarily used by commuters who live outside Sumner and will destroy the city core. But he said Monday that he’d support the letter to avoid making a bad situation worse and ensure that beneficial traffic improvements are seriously considered.

“Trying to do something that is better for Sumner is impossible,” Allsop said. “If we’re not unanimous (on this recommendation), we could lose the positive points of this as well.”

Sumner City Council members noted in the letter that it’s important for the city to be included in project design and planning. The request called for the city arts commission to play a lead role in identifying projects for Sound Transit’s allocated arts funding, which Sumner spokeswoman Carmen Palmer said the city hopes to use for beautification of the parking garage.

“Sound Transit is great about incorporating art into their work,” Palmer said in an email Wednesday.

The council’s recommendation acknowledged that “no one garage will solve the long-term access that demand will put on our station,” and council members requested other projects that go beyond parking.

Sumner joined Puyallup in stressing the importance of improving the state Route 410 interchange, the main arterial that connects the two cities to heavily traveled highways. The letter urges Sound Transit to rebuild the “outdated” freeway overpass, update corresponding traffic signals “and to make a significant financial commitment to that end.”

The council also supported Puyallup’s interest in adding a new station at Shaw Road, which is a mid-point between the two stations.

“We understand that ST2 did not fund a new station, making the Shaw Road site not an option at this point,” the letter states, “but we encourage Sound Transit to explore its viability in the future.”

Both the Sumner City Council and the community stakeholder group requested neighborhood improvements around the station, including sidewalk and lighting upgrades. They also want free access to the parking garage for special community events.

Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow, who’s also a Sound Transit board member, said at Monday’s meeting that he would work with the transit agency to garner support for the Sumner City Council’s recommendation.

“It’s designed so everyone in town feels like they’ve got a good deal out of this,” Enslow said of the recommendation.