Sound Transit is happy with the results of an online survey and two open houses held April 6 and 7 that welcomed riders to share their opinion of the proposed access improvements to the Sumner Sounder station.
About 110 people showed up to the two open houses held at Midtown Station on April 6 and the Gordon Family YMCA on April 7. More than 800 visited the online open house. Ten surveys were completed at the open houses and 100 were completed online. The comment period ended April 14.
“This was a good turnout — really robust,” said Don Billen, director of project development at Sound Transit.
Proposed access improvements to the station include building a 620-stall parking garage on the southwest corner of the lot for a net gain of 500 stalls, constructing an elevated pedestrian bridge over the train tracks, and sidewalk and lighting improvements.
“We are also coordinating with the city of Sumner and WSDOT on a project that would improve Traffic Avenue across state Route 410,” Billen said. “Sound Transit is considering funding the bike and pedestrian improvements that are part of that project on Traffic Avenue, making it easier for people to access the station.”
There is a lot of support from the public to add better access to the station, Billen said.
“The parking was the highest priority that people responded to,” he said. “The next improvement in terms of priority was the pedestrian bridge over the tracks, and finally, sidewalk and bicycle improvements in the station area.”
Billen said the capital committee — a subcommittee of the full Sound Transit Board of Directors — will decide which of the improvements to move forward with on May 12. The committee’s recommendations will go to the full board for a final vote on May 26.
$39 million Sound Transit’s estimated budget for Sumner Sounder station improvements
The current budget for the station improvements is $39 million and is allocated from the 2008 Sound Transit 2 ballot measure approved by voters, said Bruce Gray, a public information officer for Sound Transit.
Budgeting for the project is in the early stages, and the $39 million is an estimate.
“Once the design advances forward, the board will baseline the project and that’s when they set the final budget for construction,” Gray said. “In May, the board will select the project to move forward with. Don takes the design forward to about 30 percent and from there we adopt a baseline budget and solicit bids from contractors, with a goal of having this open in about five years.”
The construction of improvements would start in the next two to three years, and Sound Transit still needs to apply for permits and purchase right-of-way to develop the parking garage.
The Sumner Sounder station opened for service in September of 2000. About 1,000 people ride the train or bus from the Sounder station daily. Ten round-trip Sounder trains stop at the station daily and Sound Transit plans to add three additional round trips by 2017. Ridership is anticipated to increase 70 percent by 2035.
There is definite demand for more parking and more access. People are parking elsewhere and walking in. We’re hoping that by building the new parking garage we can reduce the pressure on city streets.
Bruce Gray, public information officer for Sound Transit
The increase in ridership and service, then, makes implementing easy and reliable access to the station a priority.
“The parking at the station is over capacity,” Billen said. “There is definite demand for more parking and more access. People are parking elsewhere and walking in. We’re hoping that by building the new parking garage we can reduce the pressure on city streets.”
Carmen Palmer, the city of Sumner’s communications director, said Sumner is in a constant balancing act of meeting the needs of both commuters and residents near the station vying for available parking. To help ease the problem, Sound Transit leases a commuter parking lot from the city two blocks from the station adjacent to the Red Apple building. In addition, there are also some restrictions on non-resident parking along residential streets.
“We’re not about to make our entire city a parking lot,” Palmer said.
Down the road, parking garages and surface lots in Sumner may not be the solution. Developing more park and rides like the one in Bonney Lake that is at full capacity and shuttling riders in may be more prudent, she said.
As the housing boom continues in east Pierce County, pressure continues to mount on the Sumner Sounder station — the only regional commuter station for those residing in Sumner, Bonney Lake and Orting.