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More HOV lanes coming to I-5

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

The state Department of Transportation is planning two Interstate 5 projects –– one this year, the other four years away –– to improve traffic flow through and near Federal Way.

Construction of two lanes –– one in both directions –– for carpools, vanpools and buses between South 320th Street and the Pierce County line is scheduled to begin this spring and finish in 2007. The new lanes could open in segments, officials said.

The same type of project is planned for I-5 from the Port of Tacoma Road interchange to the King County-Pierce County boundary. Construction is supposed to start in 2009.

In both projects, the goal is to keep traffic in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes moving more rapidly when the other, general-purpose lanes are congested. The latter is an almost daily occurrence in mornings, late-afternoons and early-evenings during peak commuter hours.

Besides HOV lanes, the second project –– which has an estimated total pricetag of $38.2 million –– has an additional benefit for the environment. As part of the right-of-way purchases by the state, property known as Spring Valley Ranch was acquired to satisfy wetlands mitigation requirements of the project, which will cross Hylebos and Wapato creeks. The 27 acres contains salmon spawning habitat for Chinook salmon, which now will be set aside for restoration and preservation.

Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands, a Federal Way-based environmental group that works on salmon issues, urged the DOT acquisition of the property because of its salmon-related significance.

“If you’re talking about restoring (Hylebos Creek’s) Chinook, this property is absolutely essential,” said Chris Carrel, executive director of Friends.

The other HOV project, between the county line and South 320th, also will have a side-benefit: Sections of bumpy, existing pavement in two outside lanes will be repaved, which officials said should result in smoother rides. For years, the bumpy portions have been a jarring sensation for motorists.

Mark Sawyer, an assistant project engineer for DOT, said the existing concrete pavement was poured in 15-foot sections in the “very early” 1960s and was intended to last 25 years, not 40 or more. The original concrete wasn’t reinforced; the new material will be, with stainless steel bars that will tie the slabs together, he said.

The entire project is expected to cost less than $40 million. DOT won’t know an exact cost until bids from contractors are opened Jan. 19, Sawyer explained.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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