By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — It could be said that the former park-and-ride lot at 236th Street SW and I-5 had been spilling over its brim with commuters for a little while.
Well, for only the past 24 years.
“The first week it opened it was over capacity,” former Mountlake Terrace Mayor Pat Cordova said.
From its very beginning, in 1983, commuters who were aced out of spaces instead parked on nearby residential streets to catch buses at the park-and-ride.
Cordova said this helped her persuade the state’s Congressional delegation that money was needed to expand the lot.
Now, much lobbying and $20 million later, that dream has come true. Community Transit on Monday opens a five-level garage and new surface lot for commuters.
The transit center has room for 880 vehicles, compared to 387 before. Community Transit held an opening ceremony for the center on Friday. The garage was built with several environmentally friendly features, including 32 solar panels and recycled steel.
Construction began in December 2007. During that time, Community Transit leased parking spaces from the Calvary Fellowship Church and Rogers Mountlake Terrace Market downtown to accommodate some of the commuters. A temporary stop was set up on 56th Avenue W. between the two lots. A few of these spaces will still be available for people using permanent stops nearby on 56th.
The transit center will continue to serve local routes, three Community Transit routes to downtown Seattle and three others to the University District, Community Transit director Joyce Eleanor said Friday. King County Metro will begin serving the lot on Monday.
The new transit center could relieve some crowding at others nearby.
The 1,378-space Lynnwood lot and the 1,022-space Ash Way lot, at 164th Street SW and I-5 operate at or over capacity, Community Transit spokesman Tom Pearce said.
Jessica Osburn of Mukilteo said she and her husband will start using the Mountlake Terrace center instead of Lynnwood for leisure bus trips to downtown Seattle on weekends.
“It’s overflowing at Lynnwood,” she said.
All the park-and-ride lots along I-5 in the Puget Sound region are full or over capacity, said Katy Taylor, director of the public transportation division for the state Department of Transportation, on Friday.
When commuters aren’t confident they can find a place to park, they’ll often abandon buses and go back to driving.
Community Transit currently is planning one more park-and-ride lot, at Cedar Avenue and Grove Street in downtown Marysville. That $2.5 million lot, with 215 parking spaces, is scheduled to break ground this spring and open before the end of the year.
Last year, the state, Sound Transit and the city of Everett opened a $32 million, 400-space lot in the I-5 median at 112th Street SE.
Sound Transit plans to break ground this spring on a $40.9 million transit station in the I-5 median next to the transit center. Buses will be able to pull in and out of the station without having to exit onto sidestreets. Commuters will be able to park at the transit center, walk across a footbridge and catch the bus.
The station is scheduled to open in spring 2011. It eventually could be used by light rail trains – Sound Transit’s long-range plan calls for extending rail to Lynnwood by 2023.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.