In the past week, three people have died along a stretch of Pacific Highway South in Federal Way, prompting the mayor to seek roadway changes from the Washington State Department of Transportation.
At about 7:10 p.m. June 15, South King Fire, King County Medic One, and Federal Way police responded to a serious two-vehicle collision near the 37400 block of Pacific Highway South, according to Cmdr. Cary Murphy of the Federal Way Police Department.
Upon arrival, officers located five total victims from two vehicles. Police and fire personnel administered life-saving measures to the victims.
Two victims, a 38-year-old Federal Way woman and an unidentified man, died at the scene.
One additional victim, a 34-year-old Auburn woman, was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle by helicopter with life-threatening injuries, Murphy said.
The two remaining victims from Fife, a 59-year-old man and 69-year-old woman, were transported to local hospitals with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.
It is unknown at this time if drugs or alcohol were contributing factors to the crash, Murphy said.
Early investigation found that a gold 2003 Ford Taurus was driving north on Pacific Highway South when it encountered a vehicle stopped in the roadway to make a left turn, Murphy said.
The driver of the gold Taurus swerved to avoid colliding with the stopped vehicle, lost control, and crossed into oncoming traffic.
The Taurus was struck broadside by a southbound white 2019 RAM ProMaster cargo van.
On June 8, a 65-year-old Tacoma man was killed in a similar location in a serious vehicle collision when colliding with a truck’s utility trailer as the truck was making a left-hand turn.
The site of the June 8 crash is about 450 feet away from the June 15 crash, said EJ Walsh, public works director for the City of Federal Way.
In an email to the Federal Way City Council, Walsh outlined the city’s requests to improve safety in this stretch of Federal Way road.
Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell is in conversations with WSDOT officials to discuss the WSDOT responsibilities as well as roadway changes.
As of June 16, the city has installed signage prohibiting left turns in all directions at the intersections of Pacific Highway South and South 373rd Street and Southwest 374th Street.
The city is requesting that WSDOT install or fund the installation of curbing from south of Southwest 374th Street to north of South 373rd Street to further prohibit left-hand turns at these intersections, Walsh said.
If WSDOT does not proceed, the city will submit a channelization plan request, requesting permission for Federal Way to complete the work with a clear expectation to WSDOT that the city expects immediate approval of this, he added.
Last year, city officials submitted an application to WSDOT’s safety program requesting funding for construction of a roundabout at Pacific Highway South and South 373rd Street, which was not approved.
City staff are reaching out to WSDOT to revisit this action item and request funding, he said.
‘Nothing is being done about this’
Residents who live near the dangerous intersections have attempted to get the city or the department’s attention for months, said resident Andrew Avila-Booth.
Booth, who has lived off of SW 374th Street for two years, said there has been countless times he slowed to make a left turn, yet “people are flying by and people don’t even notice I’m stopped.”
Accidents have been avoided only through a sharp swerve by the other driver — or a punch to the gas pedal by Avila-Booth.
“It’s been really scary living there,” he said.
The roadway’s speed limit is 45 mph, but drivers often drive 60 mph, he said.
In the past, a group of neighbors have tried to contact the city and the department of transportation, he said, but the city and the department “all point the finger saying it’s someone else’s problem.”
With over a dozen contact attempts to the city and the department in the past two years, Avila-Booth said he’s only heard back once — and “all they told me was to contact Federal Way again.”
Neighbors have brainstormed what safety measures could be taken to make the road safer, such as a lower speed limit, flashing lights to signify a left turn, or a center median turn lane.
The frequent accidents and tragic deaths have left the nearby residents feeling outraged and disheartened, he said.
“It’s saddening now more than outrage,” he said. “But I’m still outraged.” City and state officials are paid to listen and address the safety concerns of residents, he said, and yet “absolutely nothing is being done about this.”