Massive pipeline coming through



The latest construction project affecting traffic to and around downtown shopping areas begins this week with the closure of SeaTac Mall’s south parking lot.

The closure, expected to last at least two weeks, is for work on the final link in a 42-mile water pipeline for Federal Way and other areas in King and Pierce counties.

While trenches are being dug and pipe is being laid through the middle of the parking lot bordering South 324th Street, shoppers and employees of the mall won’t be able to park in the lot. They will be able to use the normal access roads to reach other lots, but the south lot likely won’t reopen fully for two months.

Gottschalks and the Bon Marche are two stores whose only outside entrances face the south lot. The impact on their business won’t be clear until the lot has been closed for a substantial period. Mall management officials couldn’t be reached for comment on any marketing plans to help offset inconvenience for customers.

“We expect it (the parking shutdown) to affect us somehow, but it’s only for a short period of time. We’ll just have to ride it out,” said Holly Gilbert, manager of the Gottschalks store. “Fortunately, we have another good entrance (inside the mall). Our attitude is that it’s business as usual. We’ve had other projects to deal with it and gotten through those, too.”

Starting last year, widening of Pacific Highway South and South 320th and 324th streets also have disrupted traffic around the mall and other downtown destinations.

Tim Larson, project engineer for Tacoma Water, the lead agency in the project, said property owners along the pipeline right-of-way (in Federal Way, basically the BPA power lines) should have been notified several weeks in advance of any construction.

Either this week or next week, work will begin on drilling a hole beneath Pacific Highway near South 324th for the pipeline. Larson said traffic won’t be blocked by the drilling.

The same kind of work was underway Monday on Military Road west of Interstate 5.

Casing beneath 23rd Avenue South for the pipeline was installed earlier as part of a city road project.

The new water pipeline will provide as much as 65 million gallons of water per day to customers in Lakehaven Utility District, Tacoma, Seattle, Kent and Covington when it’s finished near the end of 2006. Lakehaven customers could start tapping the district’s one-ninth share of the available water in late-2004 or early-2005, officials said.

Lakehaven and other utilities are pooling money for the $216 million project. The eight-mile section cutting through the mall’s parking lot, will cost $30 million and will run from 124th Avenue east of Auburn to First Avenue South in Federal Way. One of the final pieces in the pipeline, it’s supposed to be finished by October 2004, according to Craig Gibson, a spokesman for Tacoma Water.

The water is coming from the Green River watershed, about 25 miles east of Federal Way. A nine-mile section of the pipeline from Tacoma to the Lakehaven district was completed in 2000. Construction of a 10-mile section from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to Covington was done last year.

This year’s construction includes the portion from Kent through Federal Way and a six-mile section from Covington to Kent. A two-mile connection to Howard Hanson Dam on the Green River is scheduled for completion by fall 2004, and an eight-mile link to Seattle’s water system, is expected to be finished in 2006.

The dam’s water storage is being increased as part of the project.

The pipeline contractor is Robison Construction Inc. (RCI), a Sumner-based company that Gibson said is the largest utility builder in Washington.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565,

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