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Federal Way Council approves two controversial traffic circles

City of Federal Way - Contributed photo
City of Federal Way
— image credit: Contributed photo

The Federal Way City Council approved the installation of two controversial traffic circles located at Southwest 330th Street and Third Avenue Southwest and Southwest 330th Street and Sixth Avenue Southwest at a regular meeting on Tuesday.

The Council also approved $90,000 to fund the project.

Though there is no start date yet, the city hopes to have the project completed by the end of October, said Erik Preston, senior traffic engineer.

City officials conducted studies that show drivers around Sixth Avenue Southwest go an average of 37 mph, despite the posted speed of 25 mph and Third Avenue Southwest has a sight distance issue. Due in part to these issues, the two intersections earned nine points on the city’s ranking scale, the highest received, Preston said.

“This is a pretty testy issue on both sides, but an important issue, and I don’t think we can water that down,” said Councilman Bob Celski, chairman of the Land Use and Transportation Committee.

Many community members also attended the meeting to offer public comments both in support and opposition to the proposal of two traffic circles.

While most citizens recognized a speeding issue, many had concerns about the traffic circles and offered alternatives, including speed tables and widening the road. Concerns included traffic backups due to congestion from the circles and the ability to quickly receive emergency responses.

Rob Graf, president of the Ridge Homeowners Association, noted that of the seven accidents on the stretch of road in question, one was at the Third Avenue Southwest intersection where the average speed is 26 mph, whereas six accidents occured at the Sixth Avenue Southwest intersection, where the average speed is 37 mph.

Scott Chase and Pat Simmons, president and vice president of the West Campus II Homeowners Association, asked the Council to approve the traffic circles.

“We need traffic calming measures,” Simmons said.

Other citizens expressed doubt that the circles would effectively control the safety issues and could create more risks, as drivers try to take the right-of-way in the circle.

Councilwoman Dini Duclos shared that concern, saying she has experienced that in a circle near Fred Meyer, were drivers on the main road take the right-of-way from drivers entering the circle from side roads.

Other community members, including Kevin Burns, expressed concern that money may be wasted by forgoing cheaper, but as-efficient, traffic controls.

“I rather doubt anything I’ll say will change anyone’s mind, but I’ll say it anyhow,” Burns said.

Ann Woolman, president of the Latitude Condominiums Homeowners Association, said Federal Way already has too many traffic obstacles and the circles will be overkill.

After some discussion on alternatives, the Council approved funding and construction of the traffic circles in a 6-1 vote, with Duclos opposing the measure.

“The traffic circles won’t be put in and then forgotten,” said Councilwoman Susan Honda, who has lived in both the Ridge and West Campus II neighborhoods. “They will go back and do another traffic study. If they’re not working, something else will have to be done.”

 

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