Letters to the Editor

City Center Access: Three letters on Federal Way traffic project

312th Street project promotes auto traffic

I oppose the 312th Street alternative because of the impacts to Steel Lake Park and the impacts down the road at Mirror Lake.

I would support an alternative that does not focus solely on private automobile traffic.

First, Steel Lake Park is already bisected, and any plan to add more lanes will further divide the park. I loathe the idea of forcing pedestrians into a tunnel. A recent article in the Seattle Times addressed the attacks on bicyclists going through the I-90 tunnel. Tunnels are, by their nature, confining and dark — OK for vehicles, but not for pedestrians. The park was created for people to use, not for traffic to stream through.

Second, not enough has been done regarding improvements further west on 312th. We already have three lanes much of the way, and during peak hours the line of cars extends from one stoplight to the next. In addition, traffic passing Mirror Lake will add polluted runoff and exhaust to an already-stressed area.

Housing developments that have already been approved across from the lake will guarantee more traffic after they are built, and there is not enough room to accommodate more traffic passing through. The effect of all development must be examined cumulatively, and not as isolated projects.

Third, there has been no mention of how these improvements will tie in to the transit center or offer other alternatives. It seems obvious that the answer to congestion cannot continue to be more concrete and asphalt. As we’ve seen down by 348th Street, the roads can keep growing as long as we let them.

We need options that will enhance mass transit, not encourage private vehicular traffic. For instance, if an exit to 312th Street were HOV only, it would minimize traffic through the park as well as down the road. If the 317th Street exit was converted into a general exit, it would direct the bulk of traffic right into the City Center.

A traffic scheme to then move cars around the transit center could be incorporated into a larger downtown plan. I know that plans for tall buildings are in the works, but in other contexts, the city seeks “low-impact” alternatives, and it should be doing so in this context as well.

For example, the city now persuades builders to use low-impact design for stormwater drainage, instead of large retention ponds. In the context of traffic, similar low-impact alternatives should be cultivated.

I would like to know how the City of Auburn has approached this issue — that is, whether the building of an exit that would also serve eastbound vehicles is part of their plan. It seems that the presence of an exit leads to growth all around, but not necessarily to a quality of life that we want to preserve.

I encourage you to also take a look at an interesting article on using “tired” strip malls for low-impact housing and retail, in The Oregonian, Nov. 7, 2008: www.oregonlive.com/environment.

Thank you for your attention.

Eden R. Toner, Federal Way

City must protect Steel Lake Park

Thank you for your article on March 21 regarding the City Center Access project.

My husband and I have attended the past two Federal Way City Council meetings regarding the proposal to place a freeway off-ramp at 312th Street. We are concerned about the impact it would have on Steel Lake Park.

Steel Lake Park is a real gem within the city limits. It is free to everyone and although quite small, it provides access to the lake for all. Some of the activities it is currently being used for:

• Swimming with lifeguards on duty in the summer.

• Picnicking and children’s play area.

• Volleyball and basketball courts.

• Kiwanis annual Salmon Bake.

• Practice site for the Polynesian Outrigger Canoe Club.

• Boat ramp for fishing and kayaking.

• Plenty of parking for guests.

• Baseball, soccer and skateboard areas.

• Lake access to a wetland with eagles, osprey, herons and other seasonal water fowl as well as turtles and frogs.

Opening days of fishing season in April: See the lake covered with every type of boat imaginable. They are full of families, children of all ages, and dogs. There are always a few people fishing in waders attached to inner tubes — an inexpensive way to enjoy a day on the lake.

The City Center Access Project being proposed is to change 312th Street from two to five lanes running through the park.

My questions are these:

1. What percentage of the lake side of the park will be taken up by this project? Will it eliminate the volleyball and basketball courts as well as part of the parking lot? Will it eliminate the baseball field on the North east corner of 312th and 28th and the evergreens there, which buffer the park from the road?

2. How can we guarantee the safety of park users having to walk from one side of the park to the other across a five-lane freeway access road?

3. What effect will the increased noise and air pollution have on the young people playing soccer, baseball and skateboarding right next to these expanded roads?

If the city makes the wrong decision with this project, it will be impossible to take back what is lost in Steel Lake Park.

I would like to encourage everyone with concerns about how this proposal will impact Steel Lake Park to attend the upcoming town hall meeting 5 p.m. April 2 at Truman High School. At that time we can let our council members know how we feel and have our questions answered.

Susan Pearson, Federal Way

Regarding the City Center Access Project

According to the March 17 city council meeting, there will be a town hall meeting April 2 at Truman High School for input to the city council. And, possibly, at the April 21 council meeting, they will make their decision, which will be with us forever.

This is in regard to Steel Lake Park and the enormous, relentless drive to alter forever the quiet and lovely, rural-type jewel we possess, practically in our city's core — and how rare is that?!

Not only will all the trees on both sides of 312th by the park be removed in making five lanes, but making the two park roads "two" lanes either way will wipe out a bunch more, and create untold danger for park users. The folks on 312th west of Highway 99 will, quite probably, lose property when the street is widened to five lanes. I strongly suggest we all get involved! Please read this carefully as there are many fallacies we must overcome and time is running out. One fallacy is that 324th is still in contention. At the March 17 council meeting, a Belmor Park spokesman pointed out they hadn't come to the last meeting as they thought this was a done deal. Another fallacy has been the idea that 312th is the only street that will get the commuters home straight through the city, and a great many of us somehow got that idea, including two or three council members.

At the March 17 council meeting, Assistant City Manager Cary Roe said at the outset of his presentation on the project that the very first listed purpose of this project was, and I quote from my recording: "To enable access to and circulation in the core." Just what I have been saying forever — to get people downtown to shop.

And this will ease traffic congestion? For this we decimate our lovely park? Perhaps we'd better get more successful at building a city first. Contrary to how this project has been referenced, so far as a local issue, this is most definitely a citywide issue. Mayor Jack Dovey has now recognized it as such.

What was to be a rather abrupt council vote, and made without public input to the council, has now been put off for yet another public meeting. This is to be a town hall type meeting. Tables will be set up where council members will sit and accept input and give explanations on the topic. And, yes indeed, this gives them the cache of deep concern.

I strongly urge every Federal Way citizen, especially those who utilize the parks amenities, to not only attend the town hall meeting be heard, but also e-mail each council person with your request that instead of table groupings where we get to actually sit with a council person, could we please, instead, have an audience/stage type meeting.

The reason being: I don't think I am alone in wanting to hear "everyone's" suggestions and "all" council members' responses.

I would also like to point out that this small table grouping strongly resembles the Delphi method, whereby a facilitator sits at a table and with courtesy, adroitness and proficiency brings a group to a targeted conclusion. Please come prepared with maps and descriptions of viable alternative options and not just enhancements of what is being perpetrated by those whose property isn't being threatened.

Clara McArthur, Federal Way

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