Federal Way “Triangle” highway project suspended due to lack of funds

First phase at I-5 / SR 18 / SR 161 interchange was completed in 2012.

Work on the I-5 / SR 18 / SR 161 interchange, called the Triangle Project, is now indefinitely on ice.

The second stage of the project has been suspended due to a lack of funding by the state Legislature, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The project aimed to fix the “triangle,” or the busy interchange in south Federal Way where Highway 161 (Enchanted Parkway), Highway 18 and Interstate 5 meet. The interchange had long held a reputation for being dangerous for drivers.

The history of the Triangle Project goes back nearly two decades, according to archival Mirror reporting. Intended to relieve a pinched area of traffic and a headache for truckers in Federal Way, a project design was introduced to the public in March 2005.

Stage 1 of the project began in 2010 and finished in 2012, with a price tag of $112 million funded largely from the 2005 gas tax. That first stage replaced two cloverleaf loop ramps with flyover ramps.

The next part of the project, which is now indefinitely on hold, planned to:

• Stage 2A: Construct a new exit from southbound I-5 to South 356th Street, including two new roundabouts.

• Stage 2A: Rebuild the southbound I-5 exit to SR 18 with more lands on the ramp as it approaches the intersection.

• Stage 2A: Realign and improve the SR 161 / Milton Road South / 20th Avenue South intersection with dedicated through, left and right turn lanes.

• Stage 2B: Build an auxiliary lane on northbound I-5 north of SR 161 to improve traffic flow.

• Stage 2B: Widen the ramp from NB I-5 to eastbound SR 18 to two lanes, improving the merge onto SR 18.

The project would have also addressed a total of 10 fish passage barriers in the area.

“With the project suspended, no work (design, construction or other) is occurring,” WSDOT spokesperson Tom Pearce said in an email.

WSDOT most recently had been performing design work for phase 2, and that work will be preserved for future use, Pearce said. But the project was suspended because the state Legislature did not including funding for it in the 2023-2025 budget.

Until new funding is secured, no work will occur.

Federal Way city spokesperson David Solano shared this statement: “While we hope to see the project funded and ultimately completed by the state, it is outside our authority to take over a WSDOT project.”