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Traffic relief in Federal Way: Take your pick

A public hearing Nov. 12 at The Commons mall allowed residents to visually interpret how options to relieve traffic at the Interstate 5/South 320th Street interchange would affect them.

The hearing was the second in an effort to include the public in a decision between three options to address traffic in the area. Two of the options include building and modifying freeway ramps to create a second downtown entrance to the city. The third option is not to build — leaving the South 320th Street ramp as the main entrance to downtown.

Display boards, graphs, charts and multimedia presentations took over the Macy’s courtyard for three hours. There, residents wandered leisurely, learning about the City Center Access Project — taken on by the City of Federal Way, Washington State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The project is currently in its second phase: An environmental assessment.

Alternatives

Alternative One is based on constructing ramps at South 312th Street. Alternative Two includes ramps at South 324th Street. Most of those interviewed at the hearing said they preferred the South 312th Street solution.

This option will move more traffic at a quicker rate, they said. It improves traffic circulation more than the South 324th Street option, but would likely affect the natural environment — through impacts to wetlands and water resources — and require mitigation to address those, said John Perlic, a project manager with the consulting firm Parametrix.

Public comment:

Federal Way residents Eden and Dave Toner attended the hearing. They moved to the edge of Mirror Lake in 2006. The couple agree traffic flow downtown needs improvement, but are still learning about the endeavor.

“We’re glad they are doing (the public hearing),” Eden Toner said. “We’ll be paying closer attention (to the project).”

The couple’s biggest concerns are brought on by the South 312th Street option. They worry about the impacts to neighborhoods near Mirror Lake, especially during times of construction. Project managers estimate that during peak hours, 100 to 150 more vehicles per hour would travel the roadways near their home. The couple also questions the environmental effects of increased traffic and road run-off.

“We are really concerned it will affect our lake quality,” Eden Toner said.

Resident H. David Kaplan, a member of a public stakeholders team that has helped advise the city on the project, predicts the South 312th Street option will have a substantial impact to the streets north of the area. Many of them are narrow and without sidewalks, he said. Increased traffic flow in these areas could be dangerous.

“It’s the city’s responsibility to mitigate for that project,” Kaplan said.

Moving forward:

The agencies do not know what mitigations will be needed for either Alternative One or Alternative Two, Perlic said. As part of the second phase, one of the three solutions will be chosen by spring 2009. That option will then be further researched and mitigations will be identified, he said. Mitigation costs and responsibilities will be shared between the agencies, depending on funding sources, Perlic said.

Project design is expected to begin fall 2009; environmental documentation will be completed in early 2010. Building a freeway ramp at either South 312th Street or South 324th Street will require land acquisitions and impact the natural environment to some degree.

Attendees of the hearing were offered the opportunity to comment on the proposed solutions. The public will have future chances to weigh in on the City Center Access Project.

“The information is here. People are just going to have to decide what they prefer,” resident Dale Colvin said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Check it out:

Learn more about the City Center Access Project by visiting a city-operated web page at www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?page=1249, e-mailing citycenteraccessproject@cityoffederalway.com or contacting Federal Way project manager Maryanne Zukowski at (253) 835-2707.

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