News

Downtown traffic crawls toward solution

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

The public will have a chance April 9 to weigh in on solutions to alleviate downtown traffic through the year 2035.

The city will host an open house as a way to gather comments and public input on the City Center Access Project, which could alter the way drivers access downtown Federal Way by relocating the current Interstate 5 on- and off-ramps at South 320th Street.

Those who attend the open house can review three possible traffic solutions as well as voice concerns.

“We will be asking the public for their opinions,” senior traffic engineer Maryanne Zukowski said. “If they are concerned about where the roads are going to go, they should come to the meeting.”

The City Center Access Project began in 2003 with the purpose of relieving congestion and providing traffic safety near South 320th Street. Since that time, a stakeholders team comprised of concerned citizens narrowed 47 possible solutions to three final options.

“There is a high level of frustration with the movement of traffic in Federal Way,” resident and stakeholder Lisa Tinsley said.

Each person who attends the open house will have the opportunity to view a large-scale map of the three options for moving traffic around South 320th Street, ask questions, talk with city staff members, submit comments on the project and vote on a logo to identify the road construction as city center access work.

“Most people don’t get a chance to speak up until they see something getting built,” Zukowski aid. “This is their chance to speak up.”

Business and property owners, residents in apartment complexes and Belmor Mobile Home Park Golf and Country Club could all be affected by the project, Zukowski said. The options could require the city to build on land now owned by residents, so having an awareness of what is on that land, such as a drinking well, is necessary, Zukowski said.

The scoping process will assist the city in choosing one of the three traffic alternatives.

“Right now we are really exploring (the options),” Tinsley said.

Relieving traffic:

Option one, also referred to as the North City Center alternative, offers traffic relief through the relocation of the Interstate 5 on- and off-ramps at South 320th Street. The ramps would be moved to allow freeway drivers to instead exit at South 312th Street.

Option two, referred to as South City Center alternative, involves modifying the layout of South 324th Street. In this case, Interstate 5 on- and off-ramps would be relocated from South 320th Street to South 324th Street.

The third option, referred to as the no-build alternative, is to retain South 320th Street on and off-ramps and widen the freeway overpass at the city’s main access point. An additional overpass would be added at South 312th Street and a roadway extension at 32nd Avenue South would be constructed.

“Everything is equal on the table, even the no-build option,” Zukowski said.

The city council approved the project and the options in May 2007. A consultant was hired in January 2008 to further research the options and assess their impacts on residents and the environment. Concerns brought up at the open house will be further studied in the consultant’s environmental assessment. Just because one option is less expensive does not mean it is the best solution to the problem, Zukowski said.

Together, public input, staff research and the consultant’s assessment will help determine which option will provide the most long-term benefits relative to cost.

“The public is a traffic engineer too because they drive (the city’s roads),” Zukowski said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Check it out:

The open house will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 9 at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S. It is part of a scoping process that will allow for citizens’ comments and continue through April 23. To learn more about the City Center Access Project visit the City’s Web site at www.cityoffederalway.com.

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