Forget the economy — let there be lights

City workers hang up lights on trees along South 320th Street in Federal Way. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
City workers hang up lights on trees along South 320th Street in Federal Way.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Soft white lights will soon twinkle and glow downtown, reminding passersby that the holiday season has arrived.

A streets and maintenance crew set about placing holiday lights on trees lining the streets in the city core Nov. 13. Despite a tough economy that is causing budget cuts region-wide, the city council and management staff decided the lights are a much-needed pick-me-up for residents.

The crew will string the trees with two 100-foot strands of white lights this week, crew member Brian Lybeck said. The lights will wind up the trunks, hugging tight to low-hanging branches.

When the men finish their work, the following stretches will sparkle: South 320th Street from Interstate 5 to 11th Place South, Pacific Highway South from South 312th Street to South 324th Street, South 324th Street and 23rd Avenue South from South 317th Street to South 324th Street.

“It takes forever and a day to put them up,” Lybeck said.

The street and maintenance crews’ efforts do not go unnoticed. The city council always comments on how nice they look, crew member Rolfe Pedersen said.

“We get a lot of positive comments about the lights,” Public Works deputy director Ken Miller said. “It’s real festive.”

The lighting is a five-year tradition. As street projects, such as Pacific Highway South HOV Lanes phase I, were completed from 2000 to 2003, a small electrical box was installed near each tree in the downtown core, Streets Systems manager Marwan Salloum said.

In 2003, the projects were finished and the city had its first full tree lighting, he said. The event used to be coordinated with the lighting of a larger holiday tree at The Commons mall.

Mall customer service reported the mall will not have a holiday tree this year. Lights on the landscaping trees will be turned on Nov. 26. They will remain until shortly after the new year, Lybeck said.

Federal Way’s management team fleetingly considered putting the tradition on hold this season due to the flailing economy. However, staff decided the price to light the trees is worth the joy they bring to residents and visitors. The lights cost about $2,000 for the duration of the holiday season, Salloum said.

“The impact of the lights on the city’s budget is very small. We felt strongly that given the dreary state of the weather and the national economy, not turning on the lights would send a more negative message than turning them on,” city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said. “We’re looking forward to the holiday cheer that the lights bring.”

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565.

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