Here comes the transit center


Staff writer

Construction workers are tearing up and removing the foundations of two former businesses downtown to make way for Sound Transit’s Federal Way transit center and parking garage at South 317th Street and 23rd Avenue South.

“The first part of construction is destruction,” Sound Transit project manager Dan Eder said.

Workers with PCL Construction Services have begun work on the long-planned and much-debated transit center and parking garage, but it will be several months before an outline emerges of what will eventually become the five-story, 1,200-stall garage and associated bus bays.

The workers will start excavating the footprint of the garage “in the next several weeks,” Eder said. Following that, they’ll start on the foundation of the structure.

To make way, the old Silo store building and the former Cucina Cucina restaurant are being demolished.

Meanwhile, the right lane of southbound Interstate 5 is closed near South 320th Street as state Department of Transportation (DOT) workers set the foundations for high-occupancy vehicle ramps that will take buses and car- and van-pool vehicles to the transit center.

Workers have excavated an area west of the freeway to build a bridge pier that eventually will support the overpass to South 317th Street.

Construction of the other pier, which will be located in the median, is expected to disrupt traffic as drivers are diverted to the left and right of an island where workers will be building the east pier.

DOT spokesman Greg Phipps said the island will be created in early October and is expected to remain in place until April 2005. “That may cause some slowdowns as the left two lanes veer to the left and the right two lanes continue moving” around the island, he said.

Pier construction will run from October to December, and the bridge deck will be built from December to April 2005, Phipps said. Once the bridge deck is finished, traffic will be reverted back to the regular southbound lanes and work will begin on the ramps in the median.

State transportation project planners expect the access ramps will be finished next August, but the roundabout at South 317th will have to be built and everything will have to be connected to the transit center and parking garage, Phipps said. All told, planners expect the whole project to be finished in October 2005.

The project budget is about $40 million, funded by the state and federal governments and Sound Transit.

Opponents of the transit center, claiming it would make traffic congestion worse downtown and potentially keep customers away from businesses, fought the project in court and protested it to Sound Transit and the City Council. All attempts to stop or alter the project failed.

DOT is working on similar freeway projects around King County, including in downtown Bellevue on Interstate 405, near Totem Lake on I-405 and near Eastgate on Interstate 90.

Phipps said the ramps are intended to “provide more reliable and quicker travel times for buses, car pools and van pools,” and to eliminate slowdowns from buses merging onto busy freeways.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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