Lynnwood getting federal help as it plans for light rail, development

LYNNWOOD — The city’s transportation situation is getting some attention from the federal government.

Through a new grant, Lynnwood is receiving in-depth assistance from the Federal Transit Administration in planning for the future of mass transit and the development expected to come with it.

Only three cities in the country are getting that level of attention, said Dustin Akers, who works for Lynnwood.

He’s the program manager on the City Center project, which aims to create a downtown feel in the coming years in the area of 196th Street SW and I-5.

A major component of Lynnwood’s transit plan is the anticipated arrival of light rail in 2023.

Lynnwood’s light rail station now is in the “final design” phase, Mayor Nicola Smith said.

“You will start seeing dirt moving, maybe flying, in 2018,” she said.

The grant is funded by the Federal Transit Administration and managed by the national nonprofit Smart Growth America, which promotes careful development instead of urban sprawl.

Last week, representatives from the grant program spent two days in Lynnwood, getting a tour and meeting with local folks, Akers said. The consultants include Lynn Peterson, the former secretary of the state Department of Transportation, who now is working for Smart Growth America. Also present were the various regional transit groups, including Sound Transit. More than 70 people were involved in the talks of “how we can work together to support transit-oriented development,” Akers said.

That means making the area more friendly to walkers and bicyclists, with an emphasis on construction that features bottom-floor retail with upper-floor offices and apartments.

“The whole area of City Center is slated for denser, walkable urban development,” he said.

In other parts of the country, new mass transit hubs have driven up property prices in their neighborhoods, he said. Lynnwood wants to make sure the growth doesn’t drive out people, especially those who, for one reason or another, don’t drive.

The idea is for people who live in that area to be able to buy groceries, go to the doctor’s office or cash a check without getting in a car.

The federal grants, announced in April, are in the form of free consulting, so there isn’t an attached dollar figure, Akers said.

The team of consultants still is learning about Lynnwood and starting to float ideas and concepts. They hope to have an action plan ready by the end of September, he said.

Three private construction projects in City Center already are under way — a 150-room hotel and two apartment complexes. The complexes have a combined 655 units, some of which have multiple bedrooms. People could start living in those apartments next year, Akers said.

Lynnwood’s momentum is not likely to stop soon, he said.

“It takes us to the next level,” he said. “It makes us more prominent in the region as a great community to want to invest in and be a part of.”

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