2020 brings changes for Renton commuters

Metro, Sound Transit and more are working on updates, new routes

What’s Renton transit going to look like in 2020? Here’s the latest from King County Metro, Sound Transit and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

King County Metro improved some Renton routes in September. The next changes will be a result of the Renton, Kent and Auburn Area Mobility Plan (RKAAMP) scheduled to start in fall 2020. Before the changes the final plan will be released in spring 2020.

In the draft RKAAMP, Metro adds frequency to routes 105, 148, 164, 166, 168, 183, 906 and 180, including improvements to nighttime and weekend service times. Those start next year, with the overall plan to have a new RapidRide line along the three cities starting 2023. RapidRide I Line will replace Route 160 to create all day, one-bus ride connection between Renton, Kent and Auburn.

Metro’s RKAAMP Project Manager Natalie Westburg said the mobility plan will update the network and help fit into where folks commute today.

“Or if they’re not riding transit today, maybe one of the changes will allow them to use that service,” Westburg said.

During the public engagement, Metro heard that there’s an increase in transit-dependent people in the Highlands, Benson Hill and Fairwood areas, who need more service options. Westburg said some routes might change pathways to address growing transit users based off the first rounds of surveys and feedback from this summer, as well as a a route to connect Valley Medical Center and the Sounder train in Tukwila.

The plan will not change Access Transportation services for riders with disabilities, existing ride share services and new services recently added in the industrial valley.

After 2020, Metro will also look at more flexible service alternatives for areas like Benson near Valley Medical Center. Those services look like community rides and community vans. Rides are similar to ride shares within a defined service area, then vans are driven by volunteers who carpool with others. These are both by-request services that just offer an alternative to places where it wouldn’t make sense to add a 40-foot bus every half hour.

Renton residents still have a chance to tell King County what they think of the plan draft. Put your input here: publicinput.com/RKAAMP3.

“We’re thankful to the community for the feedback that got these proposed changes to where they are now, and we look forward to finishing the plan strong with their input,” King County Metro PIO Torie Rynning said.

WSDOT’s Lisa Hodgson, at a Renton city council committee meeting Oct. 28, said the contract for the Renton to Bellevue Widening and Express Toll Lanes project was awarded in October, slightly under the $710 million budget, at $704.9 million.

The project adds an additional lane in either direction, as part of a new express toll lanes, like the toll lanes in Bellevue. This also involves restructuring several exits in Renton for Sound Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), including the Northeast 44th Street exit next to the Seahawks training facility and 112th Avenue Southeast exit.

Now designers are doing final touches on the project at an office in Renton. Residents might see some signs of construction at end of 2019 with orange fencing and such, but ground-turning is expected for Spring 2020.

Hodgson said once they’ve gotten the contractor’s construction schedule approved, they will go out to affected neighborhoods to talk about the timeline.

Renton to Bellevue construction is expected to complete in 2024, when Sound Transit’s BRT line is scheduled to start.

Speaking of Sound Transit, the Bus Rapid Transit running from Lynnwood to Burien will include 11 bus stations and one transit center. The center is the new transit center expected to come on Rainier Avenue and Grady Way, along with a couple of the stations.

Sound Transit presented city council with some possible renderings of the new center, including ample parking with a garage and separate stalls at over 1,000 total stalls. It also includes bus bays to accommodate BRT, Metro routes and Metro rapid routes. Staff at the meeting said Sound Transit is also considering how a future light rail could fit into the Renton station. Depending on how West Seattle commuter rail plans shake out, Sound Transit might move the study to be within a couple of years, as opposed to several years in the future, staff said at the meeting.

All of these transportation changes expected in 2020 aren’t entirely set in stone, things could be moved around given the approval of Initiative 976 in the general election. King County and Seattle also intend to file a lawsuit against the initiative, in part because of how it would change the bond payment of Sound Transit 3.

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