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City Center Access: Communication jam in Federal Way (w/videos)

Kevin Dahl looks at depictions of proposed changes to South 312th Street. Dahl lives on the east side of Interstate 5. His home is one of approximately 17 that could be affected by an extension of South 312th Street from its current location to Military Road South. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Kevin Dahl looks at depictions of proposed changes to South 312th Street. Dahl lives on the east side of Interstate 5. His home is one of approximately 17 that could be affected by an extension of South 312th Street from its current location to Military Road South.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

On Feb. 11, residents voiced frustrations toward slated plans to alter South 312th Street in an attempt to evenly distribute traffic through downtown Federal Way.

The City Center Access project open house at Truman High School was an attempt to inform residents of the project and answer their questions.

Many in attendance were reluctant to see construction move forward as it is currently planned. Several worried about the impacts to their property values and Steel Lake Park.

Federal Way has worked on the City Center Access project since 2003. Since that time, the city and a stakeholder team dwindled more than 40 possible solutions for easing traffic down to one recommended alternative — which would bring an Interstate 5 overpass and freeway on/off ramp at South 312th Street as well as alterations to the South 320th Street on/off ramps. The improvements are predicted to improve traffic flow, accommodate expected traffic until the year 2030, and secure motorists' safety.

The project would include widening of the street near Steel Lake Park, 2410 S. 312th St. Several residents on the east side of the freeway would have their properties bought out to make room for the road expansion.

Property values

The preferred solution is still under environmental study and must be approved by the city council before it proceeds. But it has been introduced to the public as the most likely means for solving Federal Way's congestion.

"The decisions have probably already been made, but I might as well get my two cents worth," resident Larry Wooten said at the meeting.

Several open houses have taken place in regards to the project. However, many attending Wednesday's event said they were either unaware or recently became aware of the project.

Wooten lives on 29th Avenue South, near Military Road South and South 304th Street. He heard about the meeting from a neighbor and saw signs advertising the event downtown — but said he knew little of the project before that time.

"We had no clue," Wooten said. "We were like 'Oh my God, this is kind of huge.'"

Wooten said he is most worried about how the large-scale project will impact the value of his property. Richard Amberson, who resides near South 312th Street, also said he is concerned about future property values.

"Needless to say, I'm not too excited to see my property value diminish more," Amberson said.

Frustration

In a corner of Truman's cafeteria, frustration could be detected by residents whose homes will be bought by the city to make room for widened roadways to the east of Interstate 5.

The project is expected to impact up to 17 properties and displace four or five homeowners, project manager Maryanne Zukowski said last month. Though the city will purchase the homes and property for their market values, it is still unclear when the buyouts will occur.

In another corner, residents expressed amazement that the city would widen South 312th Street at the 50-plus acre Steel Lake Park. Comments were heard about the park being the only one of its kind in Federal Way as well as reluctance to see the park abut five lanes of proposed traffic.

Council vote

The city council will vote in March whether to accept staff's recommendations to make alterations to South 312th Street as part of the City Center Access project. Road construction could start as soon as 2010 and will be finished between 2015 and 2020, depending on funding.

Approximate cost, not including right-of-way acquisitions and design costs, for the South 312th Street interchange are $283 million in 2008 dollars, Zukowski said. Before any buyouts take place, an access hearing will occur in January 2010. This will be the public's last chance to contest the project legally.

Learn more

• Visit the city's Web site and the City Center Access project page at www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?page=1249.

• Call Maryanne Zukowski, project manager, at (253) 835-2707.

• E-mail citycenteraccessproject@cityoffederalway.com with comments and concerns.

• Mail comments to: City of Federal Way, Attention: Maryanne Zukowski, P.O. Box 9718, Federal Way, WA 98063.

The short video below shows before-and-after views of City Center Access project construction along Interstate 5:

The short video below offers a glimpse of the open house Feb. 11, where residents voiced their views and learned more about the City Center Access project in Federal Way:

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