Politics & Government

Capitol Campus parking may get tighter

Parking could become a bigger headache for visitors to the Capitol Campus as Washington moves ahead on building a State Patrol headquarters in Olympia that eliminates 262 parking stalls and adds 400 employees to the area.

But state officials have options to relieve the strain, according to Portland-based consultant Rick Williams. His preliminary report to the Department of Enterprise Services last week suggested having more state employees work at home once a week and to put more on flexible schedules; other ideas include better management of 6,095 parking stalls the state owns.

“Generally there is parking available throughout campus,” Williams said, explaining that the problem is helping people find the vacant stalls when they need them.

Plans for the $82 million office building project call for a roughly 215,000-square-foot high-efficiency building at Capitol Way and 14th Avenue along the north edge of the Capitol Campus. The five-story structure is being designed to be energy efficient, with a design that fits into the Capitol Campus, while also serving as a pivot to the downtown business district.

The state is negotiating on a design-build contract with the apparent winning design team of Sellen Construction and ZGF Architects. And it needs another $69 million from the Legislature next year, or other sources, to pay for construction.

Two effects of the project plan are demolition of two aging parking structures and razing of a two-story office building at 11th Avenue and Capitol Way in which 40 people still work. Not building new parking saves $15 million, according to Williams.

Early reactions to the parking report — and the state’s approach — drew skeptical reactions from Peggy Clifford, a spokeswoman of the South Capitol Neighborhood Association.

Clifford listened to one of Williams’ presentations and said she doubts that reducing commuter trips can make up for adding employees while eliminating parking stalls. She cautioned that the historic neighborhood often ends up being treated as a “reserve parking area for the Capitol Campus.”

Clifford said she liked a suggestion from Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, that the state consider becoming partners with Olympia in a parking garage.

The State Patrol headquarters would open in 2017, according to timelines. That dovetails with Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive order in March that set a goal of having 9 percent of workers “telework” from home at least once a week by 2017 and to boost the share of workers on flexible schedules by one-third to 40 percent.

Williams outlined the tighter parking scenario during a Thursday evening meeting at the Department of Enterprise Services, which drew few members of the public. He also briefed a Capitol Campus advisory group that included lawmakers earlier in the day.

Williams said his preliminary analysis shows that parking is scarcest from 10-11 a.m. in the 35 parking areas he examined near the Capitol. Parking is even scarcer during days the Legislature is in session, and his survey found that 582 more cars were parked during two session days he examined than during the nonsession day he surveyed.

Despite the availability of 87 unused parking stalls for visitors even during peak times, he said enough scarcity existed that visitors would feel “angst and frustration.”

His report shows there are about 877 unused employee stalls during peak periods and 1,600 assigned slots, which if reduced in number would make it easier for everyone to find a place to park.

His $96,000 report is serving as an update to a 2009 transportation plan, but it is being driven in part by the new construction project.

Fraser is publicly taking issue with the state’s approach on parking.

The senator told Enterprise Services officials after Williams’ presentation that she thinks a lot more parking is available on private lots than the 35 lots and garages the state owns.

Fraser also said the state should reduce demand for parking, but said a shortage of transit options exists, especially in evenings or for the many visitors to legislative hearings that come from cities to the north.

Last week’s meeting was also a preliminary look at the environmental review process for the office building project. John Perlic from the Parametrix engineering firm said construction will have noise effects and slight long-term traffic effects.

He said the city would issue a decision about June 2, stating whether a full environmental impact study is needed. He indicated that is unlikely given the minor effects.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 bshannon@theolympian.com theolympian.com/politics-blog theolympian.com/state-workers @bradshannon2