News

Median divides city and business

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

A city project to widen Pacific Highway South, add turn lanes, medians, trees and lights and make the congested stretch of roadway a lot easier to travel is presenting major headaches for some businesses.

Scott Hogue, general manager of Pacific Coast Ford, located next to the highway, said he approves of the majority of the project, but the solid median down the center presents a serious problem for his dealership.

“There’s no way for my customers to turn left into my business,” he said. “Half my business comes from the south. I think (the median) is enough to keep people from coming in.”

Phase II of the Pacific Highway project, which runs between South 324th and South 340th streets, will add high-occupancy vehicle lanes north and southbound, curb gutters, sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and planted medians. Plans also call for combining driveways where possible and restricting left turns to intersections.

City planners hope to reduce the number of traffic accidents by limiting the number of places along Pacific where drivers can turn left.

Marwan Salloum, the city’s project manager for the highway improvements, said he doesn’t foresee detriments to local businesses from installing a median down the highway.

According to city estimates, more than 40,000 vehicles drive along this section of Pacific every day. That quantity of vehicles is more than the stretch of road is designed to handle.

From 1997 to 1999, there were 246 crashes between South 324th and South 330th, with 82 of the accidents resulting in one or more injuries, according to city data. There were no fatalities during that time period.

Salloum said the city decided to eliminate the existing yellow-striped median to improve safety.

“They’re referred to as suicide lanes,” he said. “There were lots of collisions.”

Hogue doesn’t have a problem with the aesthetic improvements the city is making to the highway, nor does he find fault with the efforts to improve congestion.

And while he has several concerns with the Pacific Highway project, including costs of undergrounding utilities and a need for crosswalks at proposed bus stops, his main issue with the plan is the median that will prevent his customers from turning left into Pacific Coast Ford.

Hogue said city street planners have suggested customers coming from the south could go up to the light at South 330th, hang a U-turn and backtrack toward the car dealership and other business located on the wrong side of the median.

Hogue said his potential customers probably would rather find a dealership with a more convenient access, especially considering the intersection where they’d have to U-turn is shared by semis entering and leaving a truck stop.

“People wanting to hang a U-turn are going to have to contend with a 40-foot truck,” he said. “I think they’re going to find an easier business to get into.”

Salloum disagreed. “People will understand,” he said. “If you want to go to Pacific Coast Ford, you’ll find a way to get there.”

Hogue said he’s willing to tear out part of his parking lot to make a new side entrance if the city would break the median at South 332nd Street, which is a private road that runs between his dealership and Ernie’s Federal Way Truck Stop.

But city officials haven’t been warm to the suggestions.

“Their response on any level is the median’s not going anywhere,” he said. “They’re extremely unfriendly to business.”

Hogue is preparing to file a lawsuit against the city to make officials address some of his concerns with the Pacific Highway plan, particularly the median.

“There’s no question it’s going to affect my business,” he said. “I’m all for (road improvements), but when it starts affecting the businesses themselves, especially with the median, it’s gone too far.”

Salloum said similar concerns didn’t pan out in the city of Seatac, which also installed solid medians down the middle of Pacific Highway South.

He said he hopes concern in Federal Way “is going to be minimized by all the improvements the city is going to be doing on the project.”

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565, ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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