Letters to the Editor

A few clarifications on the City Center Access project

I have been a member of the public stakeholder team for the City Center Access project since the activity started in 2003.

I was out of town and could not attend the April 2 meeting. Therefore, I talked with several people who had attended the April 2 open house and readThe Mirror's coverage of it as reported in the April 8 issue.

There are several misstatements of fact in The Mirror's story that I would like to clarify.

Mirror: The affair was one of the last chances citizens will get to comment on the massive project.

The facts: Citizen comment periods will continue throughout most of 2010 during the environmental assessment phase of whichever preferred alternative is selected.

Mirror: The road widening (along 312th) 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.

The facts: Both the road widening and the bridge over I-5 at 312th are in the Comprehensive Plan, subject to funding availability or the city council's desire to modify or kill the project entirely some time in the future.

Mirror: Alternative Two (S. 324th Street) is the other option under consideration. It is not preferred by city staff.

The facts: City staff was not the only group involved in the alternative evaluation and selection. There were three teams working on the project, in addition to input from the general public. The three teams, all of whom agreed that Alternative Two was not acceptable, were the core team made up of representatives from relevant city, county state and federal agencies; the public stakeholder team made up of Federal Way residents and agency representatives; and the city staff made up of people in the community development, public works, and parks and recreation departments.

Mirror: The two options are the result of a process that narrowed 47 traffic relief ideas to the two alternatives.

The facts: There were actually three final alternatives. The third was "no build," or do nothing and leave things as they are. This alternative was also evaluated. The core, public stakeholder and city staff teams agreed this was not a viable option. Most citizens also agreed that the "no build" didn't solve our traffic congestion problems.

Given the size and cost of the project, it is obvious that the project will have to be done in phases. At present, the first phase under discussion could be an exit ramp from I-5 to S. 312th Street, the bridge over I-5 and a traffic light at 28th Avenue South. If this phase looks viable for funding, I would also like to see the widening of 28th Avenue South from S. 315th Street to S. 304th Street from two lanes to three lanes be moved forward from the city's 20-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) to the six-year TIP.

This would give relief to residents along 28th Avenue South who even now have difficulty accessing their driveways during heavy traffic periods.

Nothing is set in concrete yet. The city council has to select a preferred alternative so the extensive environmental assessment (EA) for that alternative can be done. This process should go well into 2010. There will be multiple opportunities for the public to comment during the EA phase. Then governmental agencies involved would have to approve the project before it goes out to bid.

And that's where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Where and when will the funds be available? There is a finite time limit of approximately 10 years where the information being gathered now will still be viable. If the project is not under way by then, some evaluation processes may have to be done again.

We are still in the evaluation period. No final decisions have been made.

H. David Kaplan, Federal Way resident

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