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City Center Access: Federal Way residents await council's vote

Map of area targeted by City Center Access project in Federal Way. - Courtesy map
Map of area targeted by City Center Access project in Federal Way.
— image credit: Courtesy map

More than 60 concerned residents kept their tempers mostly subdued April 2 during a City Center Access town hall meeting.

The affair was one of the last chances citizens will get to comment on the massive project. The meeting was also an opportunity for residents to discuss the project face-to-face with council members and listen to city staff's ideas to avoid impacts to Steel Lake Park and residential neighborhoods.

Many attended the meeting because they oppose the city's plan to widen South 312th Street to a five-lane thoroughfare from 23rd Avenue South to 28th Avenue South. The road widening is part of the city's comprehensive plan and will happen, whether done in conjunction with City Center Access or not, within the next 20 years. But there may be room to negotiate how wide the road will ultimately be, Assistant City Manager Cary Roe indicated at the meeting.

Give and take

The city suggests the following for preserving the current settings of the park and neighborhoods, while still completing City Center Access: Alternative One:

• Re-arrange the north and south entrances to Steel Lake Park, making them available to two-way, rather than the current one-way, traffic. This, in conjunction with a tunnel that separates vehicle and pedestrian traffic from South 312th Street traffic, may allow for four lanes at South 312th Street, instead of five.

• Block off 28th Avenue South at South 304th Street. This would prohibit drivers from using the street as a cut-through to Military Road South.

A tunnel for pedestrian and vehicle use is not ideal, audience members said. Blocking traffic to Military Road would give residents on 28th Street South relief from the traffic introduced by Alternative One, but would go against the city's will to reduce traffic congestion downtown, they said.

Some in attendance became irritable when Roe presented the mitigating ideas. They openly questioned whether their input was valuable to the city council and whether city staff put enough effort into the project. At least one resident, who volunteered as a public stakeholder to help city staff identify solutions to downtown traffic, took offense to the implication that Alternative One was hastily recommended.

"(Narrowing the traffic relief options) was not done quickly," resident and stakeholder Bill Martin said. "There was a lot of planning, a lot of effort put into this."

Long-awaited vote

Work on the City Center Access began in 2003. The city council has been asked to approve or disapprove Alternative One through a vote. The vote was put off twice in March due to the overwhelming number of citizens that begged the council to abandon the option. At recent city council and open house meetings, residents said if the council approves the project, it will be a dire mistake that will forever change the park's atmosphere and neighborhoods.

"It's a community," resident Deanna Riddle said at the March 3 council meeting. "It's not just some place a road can go through."

Alternative Two is the other option under consideration. It is not preferred by city staff. It would bring changes to South 324th Street. The two options are the result of a process that narrowed 47 traffic relief ideas to the two alternatives. City Council will vote at 7 p.m. April 21 at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S., on whether to adopt Alternative One and move forward with an environmental assessment on this solution. Public comment will be taken.

Get educated

City Center Access: Alternative One includes the following roadwork:

1. Widen South 320th Street southbound off-ramp, adding a right and left-turn lane.

2. Widen South 320th Street overpass, adding HOV lanes and sidewalks.

3. Relocate northbound South 320th Street on and off-ramps.

4. Add a bridge extending South 312th Street over Interstate 5.

5. Widen South 312th Street to five lanes from 23rd Avenue South to 28th Avenue South. Sidewalks are included.

6. Extend 32nd Avenue South north, connecting it to Military Road South and adding sidewalks.

7. Extend South 312th Street to Military Road South, adding bike lanes and sidewalks.

8 -11. Add access to Interstate 5 at South 312th Street. This includes connecting South 320th Street and South 312th Street through the use of Interstate 5 on and off-ramps.

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