Meidans and HOV lanes twist city drives


Staff writer

The construction of solid medians and HOV lanes has brought some confusion to Federal Way’s major roads, but the city’s traffic division has prepared a brochure to explain how to follow the new road rules.

Federal Way Police officials think it’s too soon to tell if the changes have contributed to an increase in the number of collisions, spokeswoman Stacy Flores said, but drivers and city traffic experts have seen near-misses as people try to navigate through the revisions.

Traffic engineer Maryanne Zukowski acknowledged the new rules are confusing, but she said once they’re explained, they’re easy to follow.

Zukowski and her staff made up street signs and asked a control group of drivers what the signs communicated to them. The staff then sat down with an average driver and a police officer to ensure the message drivers get from the signs is the same police get when they go to enforce them.

After that, Zukowski met with a cop, a judge and the city’s director of public works to decide how the new road rules should be enforced.

The final results were the signs installed from South 312th to South 324th streets and on South 348th andn South 320th, as well as the brochures, which are available around town and will be mailed to about 40,000 residents in the city’s spring newsletter.

Now that solid medians have been installed along Pacific Highway South, one of the biggest safety issues for drivers accustomed to turn right on a red light is the increase in the number of drivers making U-turns.

Drivers in the inside left-turn lane with a green signal have the right-of-way to make a U-turn. Drivers turning right on a red light must yield to U-turning traffic.

New high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on city streets have brought their own confusion.

The HOV lanes –– which run along Pacific Highway from South 312th Street to South 324th Street, on South 348th Street and on South 320th Street –– have some drivers wondering how long they’re allowed to be in them and when they’re allowed to enter them to turn right.

“When you say HOV lanes, you think freeways,” Zukowski said. “But when you mix the ability to make turns and to change the way you sign it, people need to know how to do it.”

The HOV lanes in Federal Way are somewhat different than those on the freeway. Single-occupant vehicles are allowed in HOV lanes to make a right turn between two signalized intersections.

In other words, if drivers turn onto Pacific from South 320th, they’re allowed to be in the HOV lane until South 324th, which is the next intersection with stop lights. The driver has to either turn right into a business or get into one of the left travel lanes before the next signal, or the driver has to turn right at the signal.

City officials emphasize drivers must turn right from the HOV lane — they cannot turn right into a business from the travel lane.

Drivers also aren’t supposed to pull out of a business and cross the HOV lane to enter traffic in the travel lane. In that scenario, a driver should pull out of a business into the HOV lane, which can serve as an acceleration lane. The driver moves left into a travel lane at the first opportunity.

Because the traffic revisions are new — and confusing –– police aren’t ticketing for violations, at least not yet.

When officers see drivers breaking the new rules, they’re pulling them over and giving them a warning, along with one of Zukowski’s brochures. Flores said the department is “more interested in educating” drivers than ticketing them.

Police will begin enforcing proper use of the city’s high-occupancy vehicle lanes and U-turns in early to mid-February, she said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates