Sound Transit should look for someplace else besides the new Dick’s Drive-In in Kent to build a future train maintenance base in south King County, the agency’s system expansion committee said Thursday.

The burger restaurant at 24220 Pacific Highway S., and a Lowe’s home improvement store, would have been condemned as part of a larger 30- to 35-acre site under consideration for the maintenance base.

The committee’s unanimous vote makes it likely that the full transit board, meeting May 23, will remove the Kent property from further studies. The site is one of six options proposed for the facility, scheduled to open in 2026 to service 140 light-rail cars.

More than 2,600 people supported saving Dick’s in email and online comments sent to Sound Transit. The restaurant opened Dec. 12 and is the only Dick’s south of Seattle.

Transit-board member Dave Upthegrove of nearby Des Moines proposed to scrap the Dick’s site from consideration.

But he said saving the restaurant alone wasn’t a good reason. More importantly, he said, the property should be available for so-called transit-oriented development, such as housing, retail and offices, rather than a maintenance base.

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The property is across the highway from Highline College and a few blocks south of the Kent/Des Moines light-rail station, to open in 2024.

“It would also wipe out a low-income mobile home park” where 30 to 40 households live, flouting the agency’s goal of helping social equity, Upthegrove, a Metropolitan King County Council member, said at Thursday’s committee meeting.

The committee’s vote recommends reducing the six possible sites to three:

  • Midway Landfill along Interstate 5.
  • Federal Way at South 336th Street, which would displace the Christian Faith Center.
  •  Federal Way at South 344th Street, which would displace at least 67 businesses and 14 homes.

Construction of the maintenance base at the Dick’s site or in Federal Way would cost about $800 million. But an additional $500 million or so would be required to build on the landfill, which is a federal Superfund site and poses environmental risks, a Sound Transit staff report says.

The base, larger than the original Sodo maintenance facility in Seattle, will support a 2030 light-rail expansion to Tacoma.

Committee Chairwoman Claudia Balducci of Bellevue, who worked on a contentious debate over the future Spring District maintenance base in Bellevue, agreed with saving land near the Kent/Des Moines station for future development.

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“We’re building that station for a reason, so that people can live there, walk there, get there, use the station,” said Balducci, a King County Council member.