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City Center Access Project

   
   

Project news

  • To learn more about the proposed solution and share your thoughts, please visit our online open house, open to comments through Monday, October 14. Follow this link to learn more and share your feedback: www.federalwaycitycenter.org.
  • We are also also hosting an in-person open house on Thursday, October 10, from 5-8:30 p.m. at the Federal Way Community Center (876 S 333rd St, Federal Way, WA 98003).

 

What will happen next?

The City Center Access Project team will present this solution to Federal Way’s City Council on November 5, 2019. The Council will vote to confirm the solution by the end of the year.

We will present a summary of the comments from our 2019 public outreach, including this open house, at the November 5 meeting. Scroll down to learn more and share your thoughts!

 

About the City Center Access Project

The City of Federal Way is working to ease traffic congestion in the area around S 320th Street between SR 99/Pacific Highway and Military Road S.

The City re-initiated the Federal Way City Center Access Project in Fall 2017. The City has been working to develop solutions with community members and partners at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC)Sound TransitPierce TransitSouth King Fire and Rescue, and King County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What problem are we trying to solve?

Interstate 5 (I-5) and local streets in Federal Way’s City Center are strained by sustained growth. As more people move to the area, traffic will continue to increase. Traffic delays during the afternoon are approaching unacceptable levels, even with the expansion of mass transit.

This project supports transportation infrastructure needed to support the City of Federal Way’s Comprehensive Plan. This study is identified in the City of Federal Way 6-Year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) as an environmental documentation study. State roadway networks are showing the strain of sustained growth. Anticipated growth and development in the City Center are expected to worsen this strain. Traffic delays during the afternoon peak period are approaching unacceptable levels, even with the expansion of alternative transporation modes, such as mass transit.

 

What is the solution?
 

We have worked to find a solution that will make it easier for people to travel into, out of and around the City Center. In that process, we established successful solutions will improve quality of life and the City’s economic vitality by:  

  • Improving mobility for people traveling by car, transit, bike, or walking by decreasing congestion on S 320th Street
  • Maintaining or improving access to and from the City Center
  • Providing opportunities for traffic to travel around rather than through the city core

Early this year we concluded changing access to I-5 is necessary to improve congestion. We evaluated how interchange alternatives might improve congestion in the City Center. Interchanges at S 304th, S 288th, S 296th, and S 336 streets do not provide the traffic relief on 320th and I-5 ramps compared to the modified interchanges at S 312th and S 324th streets, and increased safety issues with the additional interchange access points. Therefore, these alternatives were eliminated from further consideration.

Interchange access improvements with ramps at S 312th Street have operational impacts to Federal Way Link Extension light rail, high potential for Steel Lake Park and neighborhood impacts and lack of stakeholder acceptance. Additionally, an I-5 access at S 312th Streets does not directly serve the City Center Core. Therefore, this alternative was eliminated from further consideration.

The project team is proposing a modified interchange with an overcrossing at S 324th Street and extended I-5 access ramps serving S 320th Street and S 324th Street. Our online open house highlights these proposed changes as well as local roadway improvements.

 

How have we engaged the community?

Defining the project’s purpose and need

The City began work on the City Center Access study in late 2017 to determine the purpose and need for a solution through preliminary analysis and public feedback. The community helped the project team understand the issues currently facing the City Center, including specific problem areas and potential solutions.

After holding stakeholder interviews, community briefings, tabling events, a public in-person open house and an online open house, the City of Federal Way confirmed the purpose and need of the study and moved forward to consider solutions in the local only analysis phase.

We received 169 comments that helped the project team understand public perception of issues and opportunities around City Center. You can download a summary of the comments or a full report of the outreach completed in 2018.

Refining possible solutions

In May 2019, members of the project team met with neighbors immediately adjacent to the alternatives the City were considering (S 312th Street and S 324th Street) to hear their ideas, questions, and concerns.

Several key themes emerged from these conversations, including:

  • Concern about an interchange modification at S 312th Street and local improvements near S 312th Street east of I-5 on S 312th Street, S 316th Street, and 32nd Avenue.
  • Concern about noise, air, and safety impacts to Steel Lake Park with any changes to S 312th Street.

You can download a summary of the feedback from these meetings.  We are continuing to reach out to the community through stakeholder interviews and open houses. We will provide a summary of your comments to City Council when we present the proposed solution on November 5.

 

Why are we evaluating modifications to ramps on I-5?

Based on analysis from April 2018 to early 2019, the project team concluded only revised access to I-5 will improve City Center congestion. During that time, the project team evaluated how specific “local only” solutions might improve congestion in the City Center without revising access to I-5. “Local only” solutions are projects in or near the study area that would not alter I-5 interchanges.

Public input generated several of the solutions the project team analyzed during this phase, including (see map):

  • Add S 312th Street crossing over I-5
  • Widen Military Road South to S 272nd Street
  • Intersection capacity improvements along S 320th Street
  • Ext­­end S 317th Street direct access ramp interchange to east side of I-5
  • Extend 23rd Avenue S to S 336th Street
  • Ring Road extension

The analysis looked at projects ranging from roadway capacity improvements to enhancements to transit, high occupancy vehicle (HOV), and pedestrian and bike access, and new freeway overcrossings. The City Center Access project team used computer modeling to test these solutions and learn how they might affect travel conditions into and within the City Center area.

After modeling the projected performance of each solution, including models that packaged all solutions together, the project team concluded that only revised access to I-5, not local only projects, will provide enough congestion relief in the City Center. The project team further concluded that modifications to I-5 access, with some local elements, will be needed to address the need as established by the City Center Access study.

This year, the project team determined a modified interchange with an overcrossing at S 324th Street with extended I-5 access ramps serving S 320th Street and S 324th Street would support the project’s goal. To review this proposed solution in more detail and leave comments, visit our online open house.

 

Project history

In 2004, the City of Federal Way initiated a similar study to determine what transportation system changes were needed to preserve mobility in the City Center. The purpose of the City Center Access Study was to evaluate current and future mobility in the City Center and identify a strategy for improving access and circulation.

The first phase of study evaluated strategies for improving access and circulation to the City Center in a three-step screening process. The study evaluated a total of 47 potential solutions, including local improvements and modified or new interchanges. At that time, most traffic flowed to and from I-5, favoring an interchange modification alternative. The first phase of the study identified two preliminary preferred solutions to move forward to environmental review.

After narrowing the options down to three alternatives, the City initiated the second phase of the study. To better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each option, the City of Federal Way, in partnership with FHWA, WSDOT, King County, and the study’s Public Stakeholder Team, evaluated the results of environmental studies and weighed public interests and concerns. The alternatives included a No Build Alternative and two build options (Alternatives 1 and 2) with proposed modifications to existing interchange ramps and improvements to local roads on and around the South 320th Street interchange near I-5.

In December 2008, the Public Stakeholder Team recommended Alternative 1, a new interchange modification at 312th Street, as the preferred option to deliver faster and safer access to and from the City Center. The city also led an outreach process to gather input from the community. In April 2009, the City Council considered stakeholder and community input and selected the No Build Alternative. As a result, the project was put on hold. 

In 2018, due to continued and anticipated growth and development in the City Center, the City has started this project to address a growing problem with traffic delays, safety, and mobility for drivers, transit, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The City has reestablished the Support Team for the project to complete the study and environmental documentation for the project. 

 

The future of Federal Way

The City Center Access Study is part of Federal Way’s effort to develop a thriving community and robust economy that is prepared for fast regional growth. The City Center Access project team recently participated in a peer exchange (Full Report) with neighboring communities in Shoreline and Bellevue and two other U.S. cities that have faced similar growth in recent years. Participants discussed ideas for innovative ways for residents to access transit, opportunities for partnerships and Subarea Plan development needs.

Federal Way’s City Center is a designated regional growth center/urban center, as discussed in Chapter 7 of the Comprehensive Plan. Concentrating urban development in the City’s Center and secondary commercial district preserves Federal Way’s primarily residential community and open natural areas. Development activity in the City Center is creating infrastructure and laying the foundation for vibrant neighborhoods where residents have the option of walking, bicycling, or using transit for most of their needs. 

We determined a modified interchange with an overcrossing at S 324th Street and extended I-5 access ramps serving S 320th Street and S 324th Street would support the project’s goal and improve operations on I-5. This solution is intended to meet the needs of the City Center in 2045. Our study showed 50 percent of future drivers will end their peak period trips in a City Center with bigger buildings, more multifamily housing, and more commercial development. Additionally, with Federal Way’s population and traffic congestion forecast to grow, residents will need to access City Center with a range of transportation options. This solution offers benefits to all modes:

  • Cars and trucks – Improved traffic flow on S 320th Street and ease of access to City Center from I-5.
  • Buses and light rail – Local street connections to future Link light rail station and expanded transit network, including extended HOV lanes on S 320th Street to support Bus Rapid Transit.
  • Bicycles, skateboards and scooters – A nonmotorized facility on S 324th Street that crosses I-5 creates connections to existing and planned transit hubs and trail networks, including the BPA trail.
  • Pedestrians and people with wheelchairs – A safer pedestrian crossing over I-5 at S 324th and S 320th streets creates access to the future Link light rail station and transit throughout the area.

 

Talk to Us!

We look forward to collaborating with you to make Federal Way a great place to live and work for generations to come. Please contact us with questions or comments:

City Center Access Hotline: 253-835-2714 (available in Spanish, Korean and English)

City Center Access Project Manager: Naveen Chandra, P.E., Senior Capital Engineer; Naveen.Chandra@cityoffederalway.com; 253-835-2729

 
 
 
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