News

Traffic talk does little to calm anti-church crowd

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Residents living in the areas immediately surrounding the proposed site of the Christian Faith Center megachurch in Federal Way remain as adamantly opposed to the project now as they did when it was first proposed.

So it was to a resistant crowd that city officials explained traffic calming measures last Thursday night.

City traffic engineer Rick Perez told the crowd the final decision to permit the project — or not — will come from the City Council. Thursday, however, he was there to provide them with traffic-calming options if the megachurch is allowed.

Christian Faith Center has plans to build a 4,000-seat sanctuary, Christian Faith School and Dominion College on about 50 acres of land zoned for business park development south of South 336th Street and north of South 341st Street between Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway South.

City code doesn’t allow churches to be built on business park land, so Christian Faith Center officials requested a change in zoning and are working with city planners to come up with a development agreement that would allow the project to proceed, provided the church identifies and mitigates potential impacts.

As part of its environmental impact study, the church must pay for a traffic analysis, expected to be completed this month, that would project the increase in traffic on the roads leading to the church and identify ways to lessen or offset the impact.

Residents living near the proposed site of the megachurch got to provide their input into what traffic-calming devices they might prefer. Christian Faith Center would be responsible for paying for the improvements.

Most residents expressed concern with keeping church traffic off 20th Avenue South, a two-lane street intended to provide the primary access into and out of the neighborhood. Many said traffic already is so bad they can’t turn out of their driveways. They also said they have concerns about bringing hundreds of additional cars onto the streets.

The traffic devices residents preferred would limit speeds on the residential street and perhaps encourage drivers to take another route.

Perez said residents expressed a preference for a traffic circle at 20th Avenue and South 331st, and speed readerboards — signs displaying the speed a driver is traveling — and sidewalks along 20th.

If 20th is extended south to South 344th, residents expressed an interest in another traffic circle at 18th Place South and South 344th.

Still, Perez reminded residents they would also be subject to any traffic-slowing devices they might choose, and law enforcement or emergency vehicles also would be slowed by traffic circles and speed bumps.

Some residents remained skeptical that such devices would slow traffic. They still are concerned traffic will swamp their neighborhood if the megachurch is built.

“People use 20th because (Pacific Highway) is such a horror,” resident Marianne Degeorge said at the meeting. “All it’s going to do is cause 600 cars to go slower.”

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

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