News

Jovita road work should be complete by summer

By PHILIP PALERMO

The Mirror

The construction equipment and bright orange barrels dotting the roadway between Federal Way and Milton may soon give way to a newer, wider State Route 161.

According to their Web site, the Washington State Department of Transportation is hoping to complete their construction project, which stretches from Jovita Boulevard East to South 360th Street, this summer.

Public Information Officer Greg Phipps said the project will help address congestion issues in a rapidly expanding area, especially during morning and evening commutes.

“There’s a lot of new housing developments around there,” Phipps said. “It’s a growing area and it’s an increasingly busy highway.”

Interim City Manager Derek Matheson said the improvements will also help the Wild Waves-Enchanted Village theme park.

“Certainly anything that improves access to and from that facility is a positive impact to the tax base,” he said.

The $30.1 million project includes widening S.R. 161 to four lanes between South 360th Street and Milton Way. The project also includes two-way left turn lanes, sidewalks and bike lanes from Military Road to Milton Way.

Phipps said the project will also address safety issues in the area by installing an eight-foot wide median north of Military Road.

“What that does is prevent head-on collisions,” Phipps said, adding the median also helps reduce the number of vehicle sideswipes that occur.

The addition of left turn lanes, he said, affects both safety and traffic by allowing motorists to take left turns without blocking traffic.

“Safety and congestion kind of work together,” he said.

The project is expected to be complete between mid-June to early July.

Phipps said once paving is complete, crews must wait three weeks to apply paint to the road surface. After painting and striping is complete, he said, crews will build a retaining wall, which could cause one final round of lane closures.

WSDOT is planning an event to commemorate the project’s completion, but Phipps said a final date has not been selected.

The work along S.R. 161 isn’t the only project WSDOT has planned for the area.

In June, crews are expected to begin building HOV lanes along State Route 99 from South 284th Street to South 272nd Street.

“That’s a very important project for our city,” Matheson said.

The $15.4 million project could be completed in fall 2007.

Phipps said the new lanes would help bridge the HOV lanes already in place in Federal Way and lanes in Kent.

The completed lanes would serve carpools, vanpools and buses.

While the HOV lanes will give carpools and vanpools more options, Phipps said an added benefit is a more reliable bus schedule.

“The true test will be when all segments are open,” he said.

Both Phipps and Matheson pointed out both projects received the majority of their funding from the 2003 Nickel Funding Package which implemented a five-cent gas tax.

According to the WSDOT Web site, $25.1 million of the $30.1 million project along S.R. 161 was funded through the gas tax.

For the HOV lanes, $14.8 million of the $15.4 million project came from the gas tax.

Beginning in June, WSDOT will begin restriping lines along I-5 from South 320th Street to Interstate 405.

Phipps said work on the project would be done at night to minimize the impact to most commuters. When the project is completed in August, Phipps said motorists will see better-defined lines along the roadway.

“I think that will be welcome by the people who drive I-5 in South King County,” he said.

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

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