Letters to the Editor

Remember hard truth of transit plan

Like many others in the community, I was very dismayed to read Al Stipe’s comments deriding King County Councilman Pete Von Reichbauer’s “unscientific” poll regarding Sound Transit (Opinion, Aug. 7, “Transit center poll was some weird science”). What Mr. Stipe and other transit center supporters should realize is that this poll truly reflects the opinions of the silent majority –– not just the opinions of business owners in theGateway Center neighborhood, but the opinions of the vast majority of Federal Way and Northeast Tacoma residents who live west of I-5.

Mr. Stipe incorrectly assumes that opponents of the transit center are uninformed about the advertised benefits –– benefits that are arguably slanted toward a successful Sound Transit agenda.

Proponents of the transit center sing the mantra of “build it and they will come to downtown,” while informed developers insist that it doesn’t make sense to build parking structures in a void. As the downtown core develops, so will a measured amount of parking facilities.

Nobody in Sound Transit or Federal Way City Hall has satisfactorily addressed the failure of a similar transit center in Redmond. Why is the city of Redmond trying to remove their facility? Why isn’t it working for them? What can we learn from their failures?

What is most disappointing is that our elected city officials have embraced moving forward with a regional Sound Transit plan, before addressing Federal Way’s real traffic problem.

For two decades it has been acknowledged that Federal Way needs another off-ramp from I-5. Sound Transit’s planned HOV ramp does not divert a sufficient number of citizens away from the 320th and 348th quagmires.

As long as the majority of Federal Way’s 80,000-plus citizens and the burgeoning population of Northeast Tacoma live west of I-5, there will be a need for more routes to I-5. No amount of buses or fly-over HOV ramps is going to change that paradigm.

The process to study a new off-ramp at South 312th is in its infancy. It will be a long ordeal, as there is much involvement with federal and state governments. A third off-ramp will have more of a direct, positive impact on the development of downtown and citizens’ stress levels than an arbitrary transit center near South 320th.

Everyone who has lived here for any length of time knows that South 312th is the only logical location for a new off-ramp.Yes, a 312th off-ramp will have the undesirable affect of splitting Steel Lake Park in two. But the city’s health and the vitality of a new downtown must outweigh the nostalgic among us.

The big fear is that Sound Transit’s HOV ramp will have a negative impact on getting a South 312th off-ramp approved. There are federal restrictions on the minimum distances allowed between interstate ramps. While Sound Transit is ramrodding their construction efforts forward, a real solution, a new unrestricted off-ramp, may be thwarted because of timing. What a terrible shame if that comes to pass.

If the projections show that growth is needed for those who choose to commute by bus, then let’s do what makes sense. Expand the existing South 324th park-and-ride. But let’s not do anything that will jeopardize a real solution for the vast majority of Federal Way citizens.

In the ideal world, our civic leaders would stop and take a reality check. What is really important for Federal Way in the long run? What are the gross assumptions that have been made on mass transit usage?

Remember the cold hard truth: The regional Sound Transit plan approved by the voters so many years ago is not what we wound up with today.

Larry Paterson

Federal Way

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