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Freeway redo needs money

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Design work for a major change of one of Federal Way’s toughest intersections — the triangle convergence of State Route 18, State Route 161 and Interstate 5 — continues to move forward, but planners are hoping to find sufficient funding for the project in the wake of the failure of Referendum 51.

City Public Works officials last week briefed the Land-Use and Transportation Committee on the status of the the project and said it’s ready for as-yet-unfunded preliminary engineering and environmental review.

That voters didn’t pass R-51 last fall was a setback for the project, albeit not a major one.

“R-51 would have allowed environmental documentation to begin last month,” city traffic engineer Rick Perez said. “As it is, everything will probably slide back a year.”

Several steps have been taken to find funding, including circulating a project list in Olympia to find $3 million for preliminary engineering and environmental review, according to a staff report.

City officials also applied for $4 million in federal transportation money to begin environmental documentation, and the South County Area Transportation Board recommended $204 million to finish the project in the Regional Transportation Improvement District package.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Eric Faison, chairman of the Land-Use and Transportation Committee, said last week he supported continuing with design work and studies for the project, but said he didn’t “want to get into establishing criteria” to pick one design just yet.

The committee won’t have to pick a design concept until environmental impact work is complete.

While the two design concepts for the triangle are comparable, committee members last year expressed a preference for Concept A because it appeared to provide more access to and from Interstate 5.

Changes have since been made to the original Concept B — now called Concept B Modified — to alleviate what planners said would create an overflow of traffic at the South 356th Street intersection in Federal Way.

“You could not make an intersection that could handle the level of service it would be generating,” Perez said.

Still, access to Interstate 5 remains a little more confusing under B Modified, he said.

Concept A is expected to cost $219 million in current year dollars, and B Modified is expected to cost $181 million.

Added access at South 376th Street — estimated to cost about $26.2 million in current year dollars — also is being planned, though city staff are concerned it will increase traffic through Spring Valley in front of the new Todd Beamer High School or on a bridge over Hylebos Creek, which would consequently need to be rebuilt.

City officials recommended the committee support the South 376th road work only if an alternative could be designed that would not impact traffic through Spring Valley, but they warned that several other project participants are interested in seeing the interchange built.

Construction on all the flyovers, on- and off-ramps and road improvements is scheduled to be finished in 2012.

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 924-5565, ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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