City wants 'face to face' on transit center complaints


Staff writer

Federal Way City Council members are hoping to sit down with Sound Transit’s board of directors soon to discuss community concerns with a transit center project slated for downtown Federal Way.

The five-story, 1,200-stall parking garage and transit center project with associated access ramps to Interstate 5 is planned for the intersections of 23rd Avenue South and South 317th Street. The city issued a building permit earlier this month, and construction is expected to begin this summer.

Councilman Jack Dovey suggested the meeting with Sount Transit’s board to other council members Tuesday.

“It’s important that we and all the board members have a face-to-face discussion in a public meeting to discuss concerns we’ve been hearing,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re working together.”

City officials are hoping to meet with Sound Transit Feb. 19, though a date has not been finalized.

Sound Transit’s board chairman, Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, was unavailable for comment.

Councilman Jim Ferrell, who has been a vocal critic of the transit project, called Dovey’s idea an “important, constructive step to take at this time.”

“We need to sit down with the leadership of Sound Transit and get the decisionmakers together,” he said. “The principal concern is how we got this far down the road without major components of the community understanding the project.”

Councilman Eric Faison said he’s “hoping to have a frank discussion with Sound Transit about some of the concerns that have been raised and to come up with solutions. It’s kind of a brainstorming session.”

Mayor Dean McColgan said he’s not sure if the meeting will come down to specific requests asked of Sound Transit by council members, but he wants to make sure the board knows all the concerns of all members of the community.

“We have so much concern in the community from not just a few people — from a lot of people, reasonable people,” he said. “Whether there’s room for compromise, I don’t know. The project is quite a ways down the road.”

Ferrell said he wants to let Sound Transit know how many people are concerned about the site of the project. If that isn’t up for discussion, he said, he hopes they’ll touch on options for traffic mitigation and the impacts the center might have on the quality of life in the community.

Sound Transit officials have said it’s unlikely the board would be willing to change the site, because the agency has already spent $15 million on property acquisition, litigation, an environmental study, road improvements and design work.

But Councilwoman Linda Kochmar said that $15 million wasn’t Sound Transit’s own money — it was money paid by residents when they renewed their car tabs, and they should have a say in the project.

Still, she said she’s ready to work in collaboration with Sound Transit.

“I’m not interested in going back,” she said. “I’m interested in going forward.”

McColgan said a meeting didn’t happen sooner because council members weren’t aware of such broad opposition to the project. They’d heard from business owners and residents close to the project, he said, but last year, the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce issued a letter of support for the project.

“The red flags didn’t go flying up at the time,” he said.

Faison said he wasn’t sure why a meeting wasn’t proposed last year. “For some reason, it didn’t come up,” he said. “Hindsight’s 20-20.”

As it turned out, the Chamber of Commerce, a business group, supported a transit center but not a parking garage, and the chamber board recently voted to rescind the earlier letter of support. McColgan said that came as a surprise. And earlier this month, the Federal Way School Board joined in by passing a resolution formally opposing the project because of concerns about the project’s impact on Truman Center, the school district’s alternative high school that’s near the proposed project site.

“I’m glad we’re taking this step,” McColgan said. “A lot of people have raised concerns. The council hears them.”

Still, some aren’t holding their breath that anything major will change.

“We may be told, ‘You know what, it’s too late,’” Ferrell said. “At this point, we have no legal recourse as to this site. We’re in a difficult position at this late date.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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