Dick's Drive-In supporters outraged over proposed Sound Transit maintenance base

Kent city council approves building moratorium to protect beloved burger joint
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Kent, Wash.
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KENT, Wash. — Is there a hamburger powerful enough to stop a train?

The Puget Sound region’s rail-transit agency and fans of a local hamburger chain may find out.

Sound Transit, the regional authority building and operating a light-rail system in Seattle and its suburbs, recently issued a list of six sites it’s studying for an operations and maintenance facility at the south end of its existing Link light rail network.

What caught the eye, and sparked an uproar, with the public and public officials was one of those sites and its current tenant: a burger joint known as Dick’s Drive In.

To area residents, Dick’s is as much a part of local lore as Seattle's Space Needle, and is older than that landmark too. The small chain, with just seven locations, was famed as a late-night purveyor of inexpensive burgers. The founding family has been lauded for its treatment of employees and its involvement in civic affairs. Even in an era of national chains with far bigger ad budgets, Dick’s retains its popularity. Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates was recently photographed dutifully standing in line to place an order.

The seventh location opened in Kent in December to much fanfare and after a public vote on where the next location should be.

That the restaurant might be forced to shut so soon after opening does not sit well with ether the company or the city of Kent.

“We welcome the opening of the new light rail station in Kent, just blocks from our new location,” the company said in a letter to Sound Transit. “It will be good for our customers and good for our employees. But, we can’t serve our employees, customers, and communities if we are not there.”

The city went a step further, with council approving an emergency measure imposing a moratorium on development of transit-related facilities on the property in question.

Public officials and the company say that Sound Transit should look instead at a nearby property, a now-closed landfill. Sound Transit says developing that site could entail expensive environmental remediation measures.

Such has been the outcry that Sound Transit felt compelled to post an explanation on its public blog.

“Identifying a site for an OMF is always challenging because it requires at least 30 relatively flat acres that are near the light rail line, with specific site conditions often pushing the acreage requirement higher,” the agency said.

Nothing is going to happen quickly, it added. Preliminary review will be completed this coming May; then Sound Transit’s board will decide which alternatives should be considered further for an environmental impact statement. The environmental statement, it says, “will take up to a couple of years to complete.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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