Smokey Point bus center renovation under way

ARLINGTON — Bus riders will have a better place to wait and transfer when Community Transit finishes work on a new bus-bay area in Smokey Point, according to the agency.

Community Transit is working on a $4.4 million renovation of the bus center on Smokey Point Boulevard, just north of 172nd Street NE and east of I-5. Construction began in September and could be finished by May.

The new center will have five bus bays, compared to two for the old one, plus more shelters, seating and lighting.

Before the renovation, only two buses could get through the turnaround area at one time, though five routes stop and connect in the vicinity.

Two of those routes, the 240 and the 227, stopped on Smokey Point Boulevard. Riders who transferred to the other routes — the 200, 201 and 220, and vice versa — had to walk between the stops on the street and turnaround area.

When the renovation is done, bus bays for four of the five routes will be in the turnaround area, and the fifth, facing Smokey Point Boulevard but right near the others, will have a sheltered area.

The center will have room to eventually handle more bus trips, Community Transit spokesman Martin Munguia said.

Also, there will be plenty of layover space, which is necessary since the bus center is the endpoint of several routes, he said. Buses are sometimes parked for up to 20 minutes between trips.

“It’s got a lot of opportunity for the future,” he said.

There is some disruption during construction, with riders for all of the routes having to use nearby street stops.

The bus center never has had parking and still won’t after the renovation. The center only serves riders on local routes, though it’s possible a commuter route from Stanwood could stop there in the future, Munguia said.

The only park-and-ride lots in the area are a small one in downtown Arlington; a lot at Smokey Point Community Church near street bus stops; and a little-used, state-owned parking area near Lakewood Crossing west of I-5, Munguia said.

That’s one reason Community Transit several years ago proposed building a 200-space lot south of 172nd on Smokey Point Boulevard.

That project was opposed by many in the community who said it would generate too much traffic near an already-congested intersection. Shortly thereafter, Community Transit’s tax receipts were decimated by the recession and the idea was scrapped.

Arlington City Councilwoman Debora Nelson, who is an alternate on the Community Transit board of directors, would eventually like to see more park-and-ride options. Still, the bus-center renovation is a good interim step, she said.

“I’m happy with this for right now,” Nelson said. “I believe it’s essential to have that station there because it’s such a crossroads for people to be able to get to their jobs.”

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