New bus base in the works

For more than a decade, the Tahoma School District tried to find a spot for a new bus barn, but either the site hasn’t been right or the money hasn’t been there to pay for it.

For more than a decade, the Tahoma School District tried to find a spot for a new bus barn, but either the site hasn’t been right or the money hasn’t been there to pay for it.

“The current transportation center is built around the old Maple Valley grade school building,” said district spokesman Kevin Patterson. “There’s no practical way to remodel that building and continue to use that site.”

The district settled on a site off Petrovitsky Road Southeast near Shadow Lake Elementary School about two years ago. The contract to build the new transportation center was awarded to Mountain West Construction for $1.4 million on May 19.

The last hurdle to get over before work can start on the site is to get King County and the city of Seattle to sign off on a joint agreement to allow the district to build around a water pipeline that comes from Seattle’s reservoir that runs along the property line.

Patterson explained the long and winding road the district has taken to get to a stage where dirt can finally be turned.

“At one point – and this was in the late 1980s – there was money included in a bond measure to build a bus barn,” he said. “That money was diverted to build another wing at Glacier Park Elementary School because the student enrollment was growing rapidly and needed more classrooms.”

Since then, district officials have been looking for a way to build a new transportation center. In 1989, they decided to do something because the maintenance garage for the buses just doesn’t work. An old storage shed was converted to a maintenance building, which doesn’t have lifts for mechanics to work on the buses.

School buses are stationed at the old Tahoma Elementary School site, which is also home to Maple Valley High School and the district’s maintenance staff. It’s a small, crowded site. Bus drivers have to arrive early in the morning to get a parking spot before they start work. It’s also on a hillside just off Southeast 216th, which even if it could be revamped would require drainage ponds. according to the district.

“We looked at two other sites, but for lots of reasons we came back to the Petrovitsky site,” Patterson said. “We owned the land and we had information from a consultant that we could do the earth-moving at a reasonable cost, so it became feasible. The hardest part is the earth-moving.”

District officials also considered using the property known as Summit Pit, just west of Maple Valley Highway and about a half mile south of Four Corners. The original idea was to work with the city of Maple Valley to develop that property, which is about 20 acres. Officials said that site wasn’t perfect, either, because construction would require building a road.

The district has since sold the site to the city, which plans to some day use it for multi-use fields that local youth athletic organizations can use for soccer, baseball, football and rugby.

First up in construction of the new bus barn is getting the land ready. It’s “pretty uneven, so we’re going to have to move a lot of dirt to even it up and put in the infrastructure, then do the paving,” Patterson said. “It’s not as complicated as (building) a school, but it’s still a pretty substantial development.”

The site covers 17 acres. There will be paved parking for 80 buses, which is a few more than what the district uses now to transport 68 percent of the district’s students. There will also be a state-of-the-art maintenance garage, where up to four buses can be worked on at a time.

In addition, there will be more space for administrative staff, as well as meeting space and more room for parking for drivers.

Bus drivers and residents alike have been looking forward to the completion of this project.

“Certain members of the community have been waiting for this to happen for a number of years,” Patterson said. “We’re eager for this to happen.”

Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and