News

Sound Transit OKs new freeway ramps

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

Sound Transit’s Board of Directors have approved a contract to build access ramps that officials expect will divert buses and carpools off already-congested South 320th Street and onto South 317th, connecting them to the proposed transit center and parking garage in downtown Federal Way.

Metropolitan King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, who represents the Federal Way area on the council and also is on the transit board, said the contract agreement March 25 marked “a great day for the people of Federal Way, who have wanted to move transit and car pools off of South 320th.”

Still, opponents of the transit center project are skeptical the access ramps will do much to alleviate the congestion they predict will swamp downtown once the five-story, 1,200-stall parking garage is built.

“I don’t see how putting ramps a little bit farther down from South 320th will help with the situation on South 320th,” said Matt Harms, assistant store manager at the Marie Callendar’s restaurant at Gateway Center.

Marie Callendar’s is one of about 40 business members of a group called Citizens for a Vibrant City Center that opposes the transit center and parking garage.

“It’s still going to create too much traffic,” Harms said. “If it brings more traffic in, it’s going to create a problem for businesses here.”

Under the recent agreement, Sound Transit will lead construction of the high-occupancy (HOV) vehicle ramps along South 317th Street, from the transit center and parking garage to the HOV lanes on northbound and southbound I-5.

Vehicles exiting the freeway on the ramps onto South 317th would come to a large roundabout at the intersection of 28th Avenue South on the right, near Truman High School, and Gateway Boulevard a few feet forward on the left.

Vehicles continuing on South 317th would cross 23rd Avenue South, which will lead directly into the transit center bus bays. Drivers will be able to access the parking garage by turning right onto 23rd Avenue and then left onto a road leading into the garage, or by continuing to South 316th Street and making a left.

Sound Transit is installing a traffic signal at the intersection of South 317th and 23rd Avenue South as part of traffic mitigation for the transit center and garage.

On March 18, the Sound Transit board’s finance committee approved a $22 million allocation to help pay for construction of the access ramps. The total project is expected to cost $28 million.

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