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City wants 'face to face' on transit center complaints
By ERICA HALL
Federal Way City Council members are hoping to sit down with Sound Transits 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 Transits board to other council members Tuesday.
Its important that we and all the board members have a face-to-face discussion in a public meeting to discuss concerns weve been hearing, he said. We need to make sure were working together.
City officials are hoping to meet with Sound Transit Feb. 19, though a date has not been finalized.
Sound Transits 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 Doveys 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 hes hoping to have a frank discussion with Sound Transit about some of the concerns that have been raised and to come up with solutions. Its kind of a brainstorming session.
Mayor Dean McColgan said hes 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 theres room for compromise, I dont 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 isnt up for discussion, he said, he hopes theyll 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 its 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 wasnt Sound Transits 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 shes ready to work in collaboration with Sound Transit.
Im not interested in going back, she said. Im interested in going forward.
McColgan said a meeting didnt happen sooner because council members werent aware of such broad opposition to the project. Theyd 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 didnt go flying up at the time, he said.
Faison said he wasnt sure why a meeting wasnt proposed last year. For some reason, it didnt come up, he said. Hindsights 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 projects impact on Truman Center, the school districts alternative high school thats near the proposed project site.
Im glad were taking this step, McColgan said. A lot of people have raised concerns. The council hears them.
Still, some arent holding their breath that anything major will change.
We may be told, You know what, its too late, Ferrell said. At this point, we have no legal recourse as to this site. Were in a difficult position at this late date.
Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, email@example.com