Highway businesses: Give us a break


Staff writer

City officials heard an update on the Pacific Highway South project and the raised medians along busy streets following a business owner’s request for a median break at South 333rd Street and Pacific Highway South.

Public Works director Carey Roe told members of the Land-Use and Transportation Committee that raised medians improve safety and traffic flow along major urban arterials by preventing left-hand turns.

But several business owners along Pacific are opposed to the medians for precisely that reason. They’ve said their businesses will be negatively impacted by the medians, which will prevent potential customers from turning left into their driveways, and several have called in out-of-state attorneys or threatened lawsuits.

City officials countered that raised medians are nothing new to Federal Way — the city has installed them along South 320th, South 348th and First Avenue South — and property managers have seen little impact on their businesses.

State Route 99, which runs north-south from Seattle to Tacoma and is known as Pacific Highway South through Federal Way, has been designated a high-accident corridor by the state Department of Transportation. The corridor has eight high-accident locations, two of which are in Federal Way.

According to city data dating back six years, 649 collisions were reported at intersections on Pacific between South 312th and South 340th, with 213 injuries and one fatality. In addition, there were 387 mid-block collisions resulting in 128 injuries and one death.

Raised medians could reduce the collision rate by an average of 25 percent, and possibly up to 49 percent, Roe told the committee at its Oct. 20 meeting.

While many business owners oppose the medians outright, some have said they would support them if there were more breaks in the medians. As it’s planned now, officials have said motorists who want to access businesses on the opposite side of the street would have to make a U-turn at the next light.

There are three median breaks between South 312th and South 324th –– Phase I of the Pacific Highway South improvement project –– but none in Phase II, from South 324th to South 340th. Business owners in the second segment, including Ick Kim, who requested the median break at South 333rd, would like to see some breaks, City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar agreed.

While the Phase II area doesn’t meet the density and business activity criteria today, Kochmar said the city should consider density and business levels 20 years from now.

Roe assured the committee the medians are wide enough they can be cut out and left turn lanes can be installed in the future.

The city plans to continue with the Pacific Highway improvement project as it’s planned, which includes the raised medians and no median breaks in the Phase II segment.

However, because there isn’t a strict or immediate deadline, members of the committee decided to table the discussion to give Kim time to conduct a traffic study to see if there should be a break in the median at South 333rd.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror,com

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