News

Three stops for light-rail

By PHILIP PALERMO

The Mirror

With Sound Transit asking for its input by May 10, a short-handed Federal Way City Council this week decided where it would like to see light rail if the project gets the green light.

Mayor Mike Park and Councilan Eric Faison were absent as the council voted to approve a letter to the transportation agency outlining the city’s desires for light rail.

Rather than focus on which road a light-rail system would follow, the council’s recommendation specifies where they felt the trains should stop.

“I think the key thing here is we pick the stations,” Councilman Jack Dovey said.

The council’s suggestion would be to place light-rail stations along South 348th Street, at the Federal Way Transit Center that Sound Transit opened in February at South 316th Street, and one in the Redondo area.

The action by the council leaves it to Sound Transit to determine how best to reach the stops, though council members stated they prefer aligning light rail with Interstate 5 where possible.

Sound Transit is expected to take the council’s input into consideration as it begins selecting final projects for its next phase of development, known as Sound Transit II, or ST2.

Light rail through Federal Way is one of 63 projects tentatively proposed for ST2. The project list is expected to be pared later this year. A vote by the on an ST2 plan could occur in November 2007.

Initial Sound Transit cost estimates include installing a light rail system on elevated tracks along Pacific Highway South, a design estimated to cost between $2.5 billion and $2.9 billion in 2005 dollars.

Several council members cited the interruption to business along Pacific during construction of light rail. Councilman Jim Ferrell recalled the difficulties when Pacific was widened in recent years.

“We’d lose businesses” as a result of more traffic interruptions, he predicted.

Councilman Dean McColgan said a Pacific alignment would cause too many traffic issues, but he added an elevated train track may not be aesthetically pleasing, either.

“I don’t see the (Pacific) configuration ever being practical,” he said.

The city’s traffic engineer, Rick Perez, said light-rail on Pacific would also mean lower speeds and more frequent stops, which could dampen its use for regional trip-making.

Ferrell said the favored I-5 alignment would be a viable option for people living in the area and working in Seattle, especially with car traffic expected to increase.

“We really need to be working on the future,” he said. “It’s a quality-of-life issue for most people. The time you’re in traffic is time you’re not with your family.”

The Federal Way Chamber of Commerce suggested a blended alignment, using I-5, Pacific and State Route 161 to connect light rail in Tacoma through Federal Way. While that approach lost out to the council’s I-5 preference, Tom Pierson, the business group’s chief executive officer, said many chamber members also preferred an I-5 alignment.

Staff writer Philip Palermo: 925-5565, ppalermo@fedwaymirror.com

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