Could It Happen In Our Lifetime?

The other day I received a press release announcing an Open House for the SR 509 project.  The first thought that came to my mind was “Wow! Am I finally going to witness a finish to the Burien Freeway project in my lifetime????” Since 1988, various proposals have been recommended building a freeway extension of SR 509 within the city of SeaTac, connecting the Burien Freeway to I-5 and that continues to remain unbuilt today.

State Route 509 (SR 509) is a 35.17-mile-long state highway connecting Tacoma in Pierce County to Seattle in King County. The highway travels north from Interstate 705 (I-705) in Tacoma to SR 99 south of downtown Seattle. It serves cities along the Puget Sound and west of Seattle–Tacoma International Airport in south King County, including Federal Way, Des Moines, and Burien. Prior to the 1964 highway renumbering, the highway was part of Secondary State Highway 1V (SSH 1V) from Tacoma to Des Moines and SSH 1K from Des Moines to Seattle. 

Every year, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) conducts a series of surveys on its highways in the state to measure traffic volume. This is expressed in terms of annual average daily traffic (AADT), which is a measure of traffic volume for any average day of the year. In 2011, WSDOT calculated that the busiest section of SR 509 was the limited-access highway between Burien and its northern terminus in Seattle, serving 54,000 vehicles, while the least busy section was within Dash Point and Dash Point State Park, serving 2,600 vehicles. SR 509 between SeaTac and Seattle is designated as part of the National Highway System, which includes roadways important to the national economy, defense, and mobility. The sections of highway from Tacoma to Federal Way and from SeaTac to Seattle are designated as part of WSDOT's Highways of Statewide Significance, which includes highways that connect major communities in the state of Washington.

The present route of SR 509 from Des Moines to Seattle roughly follows a wagon road constructed in the late 1890s by King County along the Puget Sound. The highway between Federal Way and Kent was codified in 1923 as part of State Road 1 and in 1937 as Primary State Highway 1 (PSH 1). During the creation of the primary and secondary state highways in 1937, the highway between Tacoma and Federal Way was designated as SSH 1V and the highway between Des Moines and Seattle was designated as SSH 1K and traveled 12.76 miles (20.54 km) south from PSH 1 at the First Avenue South Bridge in Seattle through Burien and east through Des Moines to PSH 1 in Midway. The two highways were combined during the 1964 highway renumbering to become SR 509 and was codified into law in 1970. SR 509 was realigned onto the newly constructed north–south Burien Freeway in 1968, extending from Seattle to SeaTac. The highway was originally routed through Saltwater State Park on Marine View Drive until 1991, when SR 509 was moved to two concurrencies with SR 99 in Federal Way and SR 516 in Des Moines. 

The freeway was planned to be extended south to SR 516 in the 1970s after a 4-mile (6.4 km) right-of-way was acquired by WSDOT before the project was canceled. The King County Department of Public Works recommended extending SR 509 southeast from South 188th Street to I-5 in 1988, with construction planned to begin in 1999 at an estimated cost of $252 million in 1996, raised to $1.4 billion a decade later. A freeway bypass of the Port of Tacoma was opened in 1997 and the highway was truncated to its current southern terminus, a single-point urban interchange with I-705 in downtown Tacoma near the 21st Street Bridge. No major revisions to the route of SR 509 have occurred since 1997, however, WSDOT is proposing a freeway extension to SR 509 to I-5 along with interchange improvements and new arterial streets.  The project has finally received the necessary funding to implement the plan, unfortunately it is not scheduled to complete until 2031 at the earliest – no less than 43 years after the original proposal was made.  

The open house is scheduled for Thursday, December 17th from 5:00 until 7:00 pm.
Highline College, Building 2
2400 South 240th Street
Des Moines, WA 98198

No formal presentation will be provided. Attendees are welcome to come and go during the two hour

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