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Federal Way delays decision on S. 312th Street overpass | City Center Access project

The Federal Way City Council will wait until the end of April to make a decision regarding a $280 million downtown traffic relief project.

For the second meeting in a row, the council on March 17 chose to forego a vote on the City Center Access project in favor of hearing more public feedback. Mayor Jack Dovey announced to the standing-room-only audience at the meeting that the council had no plans to vote, but would hear public comments.

Yes or no

Several residents showed up at the council meeting expecting a "yes" or "no" vote on the option known as Alternative One: South 312th Street. The council originally planned to make its decision March 3 on whether to move this alternative forward as the final solution to congestion. At that meeting, the council voted unanimously to delay its decision on whether this was the best congestion-relief solution. Several council members at that time cited not having enough information from staff to make an educated decision about the project.

Another no-vote meeting came as a surprise, but will allow residents and concerned citizens to weigh in on the City Center Access project before the council makes its final choice.

Public input

A town hall meeting is tentatively scheduled for early April, possibly April 2, at Truman High School, 31455 28th Ave. S.

Attendees will have an opportunity to hold a face-to-face discussion on the City Center Access project with city council members. Information about the project will be provided and questions answered.

The public will get a chance to personally tell the council what they like and dislike about the project — and how it can be improved. A handful of residents thanked council members for the upcoming town hall meeting and said they had several thoughts to share about City Center Access.

"I just have a lot of ideas that could be helpful," resident Laurie Hagedorn said.

Six years in the making

City Center Access is a project that city staff has worked on for the better part of six years.

Forty-seven suggestions for relieving downtown traffic congestion were originally proposed in 2003. Those were narrowed to three options. City staff prefers improvements at South 312th Street including:

• New Interstate 5 access ramps,

• Significant road widening near Steel Lake Park,

• And a bridge over the freeway, extending the thoroughfare east over Interstate 5 into unincorporated King County.

A vote in favor of moving forward with Alternative One will rule out the other two options still on the table: Work at South 324th Street, including interstate on/off access; and an option that would bring no new infrastructure to help reduce traffic back-ups downtown.

Simultaneously, the vote will serve as staff's permission to continue an environmental assessment for the 312th option. This must be completed before design efforts continue.

In January, city staff announced its desire to move Alternative One forward. Since then, the public has consistently told the city council widening South 312th Street from 24th Avenue South to 28th Avenue South to a five-lane roadway is not acceptable and will destroy the park's quality. Residents have also expressed concerns about increased traffic on residential streets and necessary property acquisitions.

But, many who know about the project agree some sort of traffic relief is desperately needed.

"Emotionally, I'm saying 'no,' but logically I'm saying 'maybe'," resident Robert Yount said.

If the city council chooses to proceed with Alternative One, then in addition to environmental studies, final design and mitigation plans are yet to come.

Council members will take public suggestions regarding design details and how to go about minimally impacting Steel Lake Park and surrounding neighborhoods at the town hall meeting. These suggestions may be worked into the project's design.

But the first course of action for the council is to choose which option to move forward. Later, it will discuss the fine details of the project.

"Where we're at in this process is picking a preferred alternative," Assistant City Manager Cary Roe said.

The project's cost — approximately $280 million — is given in 2008 dollars. Construction will not begin until funding has been garnered. The goal is to finish the massive undertaking by 2030 to meet traffic projections for 2035.

Learn more

Learn more about City Center Access project at: www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?page=1249

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