News

De-clogging downtown’s roads

By JACINDA HOWARD

The Mirror

Federal Way’s effort to curtail traffic congestion continues to pick up speed.

On May 15, the Federal Way City Council granted permission to proceed with the second phase — labeled “Environmental Assessment” — of the City Center Access Project.

This phase will cost $3 million, and the majority of funding will be provided by utility and real estate excise taxes, said senior traffic engineer MaryAnne Zukowski.

The City Center Access Project began in 2003. Its purpose is to relieve congestion and provide traffic safety in the downtown core. Years of research has been conducted to ensure that either of two options will adequately serve Federal Way and its residents until 2030, Zukowski said.

Option one involves modifying the layout of South 320th and South 312th streets, and option two involves modifying the layout of South 324th Street.

The assessment will help determine which option will provide the most long-term benefits, both for the environment and residents, relative to how much the improvements will cost. Just because one option is less expensive does not mean it is the best solution to the problem, Zukowski said.

As part of the second phase, a consultant will be hired to evaluate the impact each option will have on nearby parks such as Steel Lake Park, wetlands and wildlife, Zukowski said.

The consultant will also confirm that the land on which construction may take place is not an ancient burial site. This could prohibit building in that area, Zukowski said.

Noise and air pollution are also factors that will be considered, traffic engineer Rick Perez said.

Once the city chooses the option it considers most valuable, and has gained the state’s approval on that choice, it can proceed in submitting a final report to the Washington State Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration. These organizations need to approve modifications to interstate highway interchanges, which both options affect.

Further research may show that not altering access from Interstate 5 in the downtown area is a third option, Perez said. He thinks failing to modify the city’s current access would hinder economic growth and increase traffic.

“From a transportation perspective, a no-build option is ugly,” he said.

Project analysis

The environmental assessment will also include more traffic analysis. Currently, about 28,000 people travel through the downtown area to Interstate 5 daily, Perez said, noting the area has reached capacity.

The road system transports people as well as goods, which are sometimes hard to fit onto city transportation such as a bus, Perez said.

Studies evaluating the benefits on economic development would also be conducted, Zukowski said.

Federal Way may very likely resemble Bellevue someday, Perez said. It is important to begin preparing for that now. Both options are meant to allow for the city’s growth.

As it is, either of the two build options are expected to cost approximately $160 million to $220 million, and construction cannot be expected to begin for at least another three years, Zukowski said.

The city is expecting a 7-percent-a-year inflation rate for the materials needed to complete the project, Perez said.

“The more the project gets dragged out, the more it’s going to cost,” he said.

The city wants to keep the public involved and updated on the project’s progress, Zukowski said. This is why phase two of the project will also include public outreach to educate and inform residents.

Determining what role each citizen previously involved in the project will now play is also important, Zukowski said.

In the past, a public stakeholders group greatly contributed to narrowing down 47 possible building solutions for congestion to the two that were reviewed at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Seven of those stakeholders wish to continue volunteering their time to the City Center Access Project, Zukowski said.

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

Learn more

To get involved with this project or learn more, contact MaryAnne Zukowski at (253) 835-2742 or e-mail maryanne.zukowski@cityoffederalway.com.

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