Fed. Way Traffic Future Lined Up

FEDERAL WAY - Like a palm reader trying to tell the future, city transportation planner Hamid Iravani studies criss-crossing lines on his computer screen, trying to gain a glimpse of how crowded city roads will be 30 years from now.

What Iravani sees isn't pretty. Traffic in the city probably won't get much better, he says. In fact, the city will be fortunate if traffic doesn't get much worse.

That's because city officials think growth will increase traffic by 40 percent so that, by 2010, people will drive from one place to another one million times a day on city roads.

Iravani has been studying traffic for a year, feeding into the computer data about city buildings and the number of cars that use city streets. He then studies the green, orange and red patterns on the screen.

Green lines designate roads where you now can drive freely, like in residential neighborhoods on the west side.

Orange ones show roads "where you sit in traffic and wonder who the city's transportation planner is," Iravani said.

"Red ones," like South 320th Street, "are the ones where you sit in traffic and assume the transportation planner is dead," he said.

When Iravani punches in information - such as the number of people expected to move into the city and the kinds of buildings expected to be developed - to see what streets might be like 30 years from now, the screen shows many more red lines.

For the past few months, Iravani has been trying to find ways to turn the red lines orange and the orange lines green. For example, he'll widen some roads in his computer simulation, or add more connections to Interstate 5.

On his computer, Iravani is experimenting with building a long ramp with two lanes in each direction that comes off the South 272nd Street exit from I-5 and runs along the east side of the city. The ramp has exits every few streets so motorists can get onto South 312th Street, for instance, without navigating through city streets.

Iravani also is experimenting with a diagonal road that runs along the Bonneville Power Administration electric lines in the city. He's finding that it turns red lines on nearby streets into orange.

What's clear, Irvani said, is there is no single solution.

To show this, Iravani said he did an experiment to see what it would take to reduce congestion on Pacific Highway South. Iravani said he had to widen the street to seven lanes in each direction to turn the orange on the road to green. That's unrealistic, he said.

Iravani will outline some of his ideas at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. June 2 at Federal Way High School.

Based on public comments, he'll work on the plans as the city tries to come up with a comprehensive traffic plan required by the state growth-management act.