City will spend half-million on I-5 search


Staff writer

City officials are moving forward with a $500,000, 15-month study to see if there’s a way to improve access from Interstate 5 into downtown Federal Way.

The focus is on possible improvement to existing exits or construction of a new one between South 348th and South 272nd streets.

Last month, the city awarded a consulting contract to CH2M Hill to help the city with the study process. CH2M Hill consultants have worked with the city on other projects, including the triangular convergence of Interstate 5 and state routes 161 and 18 and the Pacific Highway South improvement project.

City staff and CH2M Hill will prepare a report explaining the work for a City Council study session in mid-January.

The council agreed to allocate money for the study last July, though council members Linda Kochmar and Dean McColgan were initially reluctant to spend so much. They said then they wanted to see if other governments or agencies would be able to participate in the project to offset the cost.

If the study produces a potential access site, the city will send a report identifying the site to the state Department of Transportation and then the Federal Highway Administration for approval.

All together, the process could take another decade, which is why some city staff and council members said the study should start now.

South 320th Street is already at capacity during peak retail times, city traffic engineers said. The DOT has classified Interstate 5 south of 320th as a high-accident corridor and the South 320th interchange as a high-accident location.

About 60,000 vehicles a day use South 320th, according to city staff, and the nearly always-congested road is approaching capacity for a six-lane arterial.

At a Land Use and Transportation Committee Dec. 15, Councilman Jack Dovey said he had lingering questions about the study, particularly regarding how much additional money the city would have to spend if the study identifies a viable solution.

“How do we know we’re successful, or do we have to wait 14 months to know?” he asked. “And, if it’s successful, do we have to pay more” for environmental work and construction, he added.

If more money will be necessary, he said, he wants the council to consider it during the upcoming biennial budget process.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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