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Pouring a Foundation for Kent’s Transportation Future

Students looked around them and wrote notes as they noticed different environmental issues, obstructed walkways, and non-existent signage. Metro buses came driving in as passengers waited at bus stops. As part of a field trip, Mill Creek eighth grade leadership students traveled a couple of blocks from the Mill Creek campus to the old Cold Storage Building in downtown Kent. This is where Sound Transit will be building a new parking garage for Sounder and King County Metro passengers.

Sound Transit stakeholders were on hand to walk students around the area and ask for their insight on what needed to be a priority when building this new garage. There were two groups of students, one group who looked at the old Cold Storage Building site, and another that observed the current parking garage at Kent Station. These groups then switched locations so both groups could provide insight on the current parking garage and the new location.

Students observed multiple factors in both locations. The observations ranged from things they noticed around safety and potential design pathways based on the location – one student even mentioned designs to help with flooding due to the Kent Valley’s geography.

Sound Transit stakeholders invited Mill Creek students on this field trip as a part of a multi-year partnership with Mill Creek leadership students that will span 10-years through the design, construction, and eventual completion of the new North Side Parking Garage. Students who participate will gain insight to the Civic Process of Project Management and the many components of large-scale city planning. Every year, as Mill Creek leadership students take on a new phase of this project, they will share their work in a presentation for Sound Transit to consider the student perspective as community representatives for the enhancement of Sound Transit’s new parking structure.

A couple of weeks after the field trip, students presented to Sound Transit stakeholders using this premise, “How can we ensure the safety of Kent citizens, while improving transportation, the quality of life for the community, and also honoring culture, diversity, and environmental factors?” according to Shannon Jephson-Hernandez, teacher at Mill Creek Middle School.

These presentations included suggestions from students such as safety signage in the top languages spoken in Kent, sidewalks within the parking garage to better help with pedestrian safety, clear pathways to the Sounder platforms and bus bays, and well-lit areas so passengers would feel safe walking to and from their cars at night, and accessibility parking, including parking spaces for women who were pregnant and need a shorter walk to platforms.

Throughout this process, Mill Creek students came forward with passion and belief in what their ideas meant for the betterment of Kent and their fellow Kent citizens, and more importantly, learned many different skills that can lead them to a career pathway in city planning or other related professions. As soon as the concrete for the parking structure foundation is poured, Mill Creek eighth-grade leadership students can be proud they had a hand in building a transportation hub for the future.