News

'Great for Federal Way'

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

The supports for the high-occupancy vehicle ramps from Interstate 5 near South 320th Street are beginning to take shape, and cranes tower over South 316th Street and 23rd Avenue South where construction of Sound Transit’s new transit center and parking garage is in full swing.

Government and transit officials attended a ceremony at the site last Wednesday to mark the onset of full-scale construction. The transit center and the freeway ramps are expected to be finished in spring 2006.

“In so many ways, this project is great for Federal Way and for the region,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray told an audience of government officials, while cranes and backhoes clanged and rumbled behind her. A supporter of the project, Murray secured $5.1 million in federal funding for the transit center.

Murray proclaimed the project will provide much-needed family-wage jobs for local workers –– every $1 billion spent on transportation infrastructure and improvements creates 47,000 new jobs, she said –– and much-needed traffic congestion relief.

The latter will be accomplished “without having negative consequences for other users of I-5,” she said.

The support and encouragement for the project expressed at the ceremony was preceded in previous years by significant opposition. Neighboring residents and business owners in the nearby Gateway Center filed several appeals in King County Superior Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after Sound Transit received permits from state and local governments for the project.

Many who opposed the project claimed Sound Transit’s environmental impact study didn’t adequately address noise and pollution issues or adequately mitigate traffic congestion. Others criticized what they perceived as a lack of public involvement during the development of the project.

Still, most of the dignitaries at the last week’s ceremony remained optimistic and enthusiastic. U.S. Rep. Adam Smith said the work at the project site is great progress for the city of Federal Way and the region.

According to Sound Transit project manager Dan Eder, 20,000 cubic yards of dirt have been removed from the site so far, and the footprint of the garage is 78,000 square feet.

In addition, workers have installed 264 of the 427 auger-cast piles, which “serve as the structural bulwark” of the facility, Eder said. He added the garage will be earthquake-resistant.

Several blocks east, state Department of Transportation contractors are building the bridge piers for the ramps from the freeway to South 317th Street, which will lead to the transit center.

Sound Transit’s budget for the transit center and parking garage is $38.2 million, and its budget for the access ramps is $32.6 million. DOT’s budget for the direct-access project is about $12 million.

Smith thanked city officials and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce for “setting the priorities and communicating that to Sound Transit and the state. It all starts with local leadership.”

Several local leaders said the transit center will provide a critical piece of the regional transportation solution as traffic grows heavier on I-5.

Pierce County Executive and Sound Transit Board president John Ladenburg reiterated that Federal Way is an important component in a regional transit system.

“I-5 goes both ways,” he said. “There’s no longer any such thing as a reverse commute.”

State Sen. Tracey Eide, who represents the Federal Way area in the Legislature, said her constituents “know Federal Way has some of the worst traffic in the state, if not the nation. It’s bumper to bumper.”

Federal Way Mayor Dean McColgan said congestion relief is critical to the city’s slogan, “It’s all within reach.”

“’All within reach’ means we have to have a way to get there,” he said. “Less time spent on the road and more time with family is important. As we become busier and more crowded, we spend more time in our cars. What suffers is our family life. We hope people can spend less time in their cars and more time with their families.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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