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Pacific Highway South HOV lane project enters final phase

Federal Way is preparing to launch the last phase of its Pacific Highway South HOV Lanes project.

Phase four, which includes road improvements to Pacific Highway South from South Dash Point Road to South 312th Street, is expected to go to bid as early as this month. Road construction is planned for a March commencement.

The project is part of a larger King County effort, called Pacific Highway South Corridor Improvement Project. When the project is finished in late 2011, HOV lanes will run continuously from Federal Way to Tukwila. Phase 1 of the project began in 1998.

Federal Way's phase four is anticipated to improve traffic and safety conditions on the busy Pacific Highway South thoroughfare. The section of road encompassed in the fourth phase accommodates approximately 30,000 vehicles per day and operates over capacity, according to a Nov. 16 memorandum from interim city manager Brian Wilson to the city council Land Use and Transportation sub-committee. Phase four is anticipated to enhance traffic flow, reduce accidents, promote transit and carpool use and boost aesthetics, according to the memo.

The final phase will bring much of the same road work as previous stages have, said Brian Roberts, street systems project engineer. Pacific Highway South will be widened, making room for northbound and southbound HOV lanes. Left-turn and U-turn lanes at signaled intersections will be included. Sidewalks, street lighting, curbing and gutters, landscaping and planted medians will be added. Driveways will also be consolidated, where possible.

The work is likely to take place in three stages, Roberts said. It will undoubtedly affect neighboring businesses, especially those that feature a driveway along Pacific Highway South. In the past, orange construction barrels and signs were used to direct customers to access points to the businesses. This time around, yellow barrels will be used, Roberts said.

"That way, the driveways are even more obvious to people and they know where to turn in," he said.

Before the project can go to bid, the city must either own or secure a "possession and use" agreement for all the affected right-of-way areas, Roberts said. The possession and use agreement permits the city to use the land for transportation improvements in connection to phase four of the HOV lanes project. There are a handful of property owners the city has not reached an agreement with yet, Roberts said. Condemnation of the right-of-ways is an option for the city, as the finished construction project will be used by the public.

Phase four is expected to cost approximately $23 million, according to Wilson's memo. Costs include planning and design, right-of-way acquisition, construction, underground utility conversion, construction management and a 10 percent construction contingency for unexpected occurrences, according to the memo. The majority of the funding, $17.4 million, will come from federal and state grants. Utility taxes generated in 2008 and 2009, and 2005-2006 real estate excise taxes, will also be applied. Roughly $500,000 will come from a mitigation fund and another half-million dollars will come from a miscellaneous 2007 transfer. A total of $285,000 will be applied from the surface water fund, and Lakehaven Utility District will use $1.3 million to relocate utilities, according to the memo.

The city anticipates several bids on the project, Roberts said. Many contractors are scrounging for work. Phase one and phase three of the HOV Lanes project were completed by SCI Infrastructure. Phase two was performed by DPK Incorporated.

"Right now, with a lot of contractors being very short on work, they are all going to be sharpening their pencils on this," Roberts said.

Currently, the project is schedule for completion in November 2011. The city will offer a web page listing construction items and traffic interruptions on its Web site, www.cityoffederalway.com. Individuals with questions or concerns about the project may e-mail Brian Roberts at Brian.Roberts@cityoffederalway.com.

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