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Final corner complete on Federal Way triangle project

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Date:  Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Contact: Mike Askarian, WSDOT asst. project engineer, 206-768-5861 (Seattle)
Jamie Holter, WSDOT communications, 206-440-4698 (Shoreline)

Work wraps up before popular Fright Fest begins

FEDERAL WAY – Progress takes shape as crews open the third corner of the Federal Way triangle project. The new ramp from State Route 18 to State Route 161 opens by noon Wednesday, Sept. 26. The ramp gives drivers a new, less-congested option from the Kent valley to Federal Way.

“This is the final piece of the puzzle for this huge congestion-relief and safety project in Federal Way,” said Aleta Borschowa, WSDOT project engineer.

The $112 million, two-year project built flyover ramps interconnecting Federal Way, the Kent valley and Interstate 5, which are heavy freight and commuter corridors. The first set of new ramps, which opened in July, eliminated key chokepoints, improved traffic flow and increased travel speeds.

The final piece, the new off-ramp from westbound SR 18 to northbound and southbound SR 161, gives drivers a choice they didn’t have before – the ability get into the heart of Federal Way’s business district from a less congested intersection.

The new ramp drops drivers south of two busy Federal Way intersections on South 348th Street that include SR 161 and Pacific Highway South.

“This is actually good news for drivers who use those intersections because more drivers will be using our new off-ramp to Enchanted Parkway at South 359th Street,” Borschowa said. “We worked hard and coordinated closely with our contractor to get the new ramp open by Oct. 1, just in time for Wild Waves’ popular Fright Fest.”

Meanwhile, engineers have been tracking the success of the two-month-old flyover ramps.

“Drivers made some good suggestions right after we opened and we refined the signs in the area. Since then, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from commuters and freight haulers,” Borschowa said. “Now they’re asking when we’ll start on the next phases.”

In the coming months, the Legislature will work with Federal Way officials to make decisions about future construction.

Environmental work
Environmental work on this project is also wrapping up. A new 400-foot-long backwater channel for coho and cutthroat salmon opened just west of Todd Beamer High School and biologists expect to see juvenile salmon from Hylebos Creek within the month.

“It’s a busy area,” said Stephanie Shelton, WSDOT chief inspector. “We were moving native crawfish, northwest salamanders and red-legged frogs to their new digs.”

The area has multiple wetlands with peat-like marshy soil. “This was one of the more challenging spaces to work in,” Shelton said. “But the real reward is watching these creatures thrive.”

In addition to the backwater channel, crews built a three-acre wetland mitigation site, built four stormwater ponds to clean water that runs off state highways, and redesigned a 500-foot-long tributary west of I-5 near Jet Chevrolet. Over the next several months, crews will plant more than 50,000 trees and shrubs to better manage water runoff, weeds and wintry weather.

“This project is the poster child for what we do well,” Borschowa said. “Work was ahead of schedule and on budget, structures that move commuters and freight and maintaining the environment that local residents value so much.”

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