Politics & Government

Sound Transit to show upgrade plans

After years of planning and months of public outreach, Sound Transit is nearing a decision on access improvements for commuter rail stations in East Pierce County.

The regional transportation agency is hosting open houses in Puyallup and Sumner this week to present project plans to the public. It is the last chance to weigh in on preferred options before the two city councils discuss and likely vote on project recommendations.

The Sound Transit board will consider all feedback before deciding on final plans in July.

Current proposals include combinations of parking lots, parking garages, pedestrian bridges and bike lanes. They are intended to improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle access to Sounder stations in both cities.

Officials from both cities reviewed the proposals during study sessions last month.

In Puyallup, a dispute over installing downtown parking garages continued to be a sticking point for some council members.

Mayor John Knutsen reiterated that “cannibalizing” downtown is not the answer to improving access for commuters. He wants Sound Transit to build a third station between Sumner and Puyallup.

Project manager Nytasha Sowers said the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure, approved by voters in 2008, was intended only to improve existing stations. She said a third station is “not something that’s in the cards,” adding that former Puyallup council members chose not to explore that several years ago.

Knutsen also expressed frustration that many Sounder riders aren’t Puyallup residents, yet his city is absorbing the burden of more traffic congestion and unsightly structures downtown.

City Councilman Steve Vermillion said Pierce County should shoulder some responsibility by working with Sound Transit on a proposal to improve traffic flow at the State Route 410 interchange between Sumner and Puyallup. The transit agency says that project would supplement on-site station improvements.

“I think the county needs to have some skin in this game,” Vermillion said.

Some Sumner City Council members last month expressed concerns similar to those in Puyallup.

Councilman Steve Allsop said he has long feared the addition of a parking garage downtown. He said Sound Transit’s proposed options are heavily focused on one or more parking facilities that could hurt residents’ quality of life.

“What I’m looking for is a benefit for the town,” Allsop said, “not just the folks who feel the God-given right to drop their car 15 feet from the train and ride to Seattle.”

Some Sumner council members, including Allsop, seemed to favor parking options on Shaw Road to keep heavy traffic out of downtown.

Mayor Dave Enslow said he has proposed a partnership with Puyallup to fund a shuttle service to and from a Shaw Road parking site.

To go

Sound Transit open houses

What: The final plans are expected to improve access to Sounder stations for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles.

Where: Sumner and Puyallup

When: Tuesday from 4-7 p.m. at Sumner City Hall, 1104 Maple St.; and Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. at The Liberty Theater, 116 W. Main Ave., Puyallup.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682