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Sound Transit votes not to build facility on Dick’s site in Kent

The Sound Transit board discusses possible sites for its new maintenance facility. (Sound Transit)

A Sound Transit expansion committee passed an amendment in a Thursday afternoon meeting, removing the site of a Dick’s Drive-In in Kent from consideration for a new 35-acre light rail maintenance facility.

Members of the Sound Transit board met Thursday afternoon to go over the six sites it had initially highlighted as options for its facility in the South Sound. Ultimately, a motion proposed by board member Dave Upthegrove to narrow the list down to three sites — and remove the Dick’s site — was passed unanimously.

According to Upthegrove, removing the Dick’s site from consideration was about far more than a burger joint.

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“It isn’t the burgers that result[ed] in that site coming off the list,” said Upthegrove at Thursday’s meeting.

Upthegrove voiced confidence earlier in the day that the Dick’s site would soon be removed from Sound Transit’s list, but not because of the presence of the iconic burger chain, whose own representatives had been vocal in their opposition.

“I think the strongest argument that has really emerged is a commitment to transit-oriented development, and what kind of developments we want around light rail stations,” he told KIRO Radio.

Essentially, a light rail station doesn’t operate on an island. In order for it to help a growing community, there needs to be dense, walkable housing in the immediate area. That becomes difficult when a 35-acre maintenance facility replaces a major center for commerce, represented by the Midway Shopping Center that houses Dick’s, Lowe’s, and other businesses.

That — more than the outcries from the community over losing a Dick’s location that opened just last December — is what Upthegrove claims was the primary consideration for Sound Transit board members.

“Dick’s Drive-In gets a lot of the attention, but I (was) opposed to this site with or without Dick’s Drive-In,” he said. “We don’t want to be wiping out land next to light rail stations where we should be having high density transit-oriented development that supports the system.”

“That density of housing is what makes the system work,” he added.

With what he describes as “an abundance” of available land for housing surrounding Dick’s, the goal for Sound Transit is to use that land to bolster and complement the presence of a light rail station.

“It would just be heart-breaking to see not only the loss of the burger stand, but to see that whole community vision wiped out that the city of Kent has planned for a decade,” he said.

The three sites that will now be brought before the full Sound Transit board on May 23 include the Midway Landfill, one in Federal Way on South 336th Street and I-5, and at South 344th Street and I-5 (also in Federal Way).

“I wish that we had one more option that was flat and cheap, and that no one had already built on, but that site doesn’t exist,” said Sound Transit board member Claudia Balducci. “With that, I will be comfortable with these options.”

On May 23, the board will convene to finalize its picks to move forward with an Environmental Impact Statement.

A preliminary EIS draft will be published in 2020, followed by a final version in 2021. Construction will kick off shortly after that, with the facility set to open in 2026.


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