If big things come in small packages, then Fife is proving this proverb true as the 5.7-square-mile city embarks on a series of multi million-dollar projects and enters a new chapter in its history.
“We have a lot of positive disruptions that are coming,” said Hyun Kim, Fife’s city manager, referring to a planned Sound Transit station, Port of Tacoma Road interchange, and State Route 99 improvements.
Before diving into some of these projects, let’s first take a look back. Incorporated in 1957, Fife quickly staked its claim as an accessible hub linking cities, jobs, and attractions. Located just minutes from Interstate 5, the Port of Tacoma, and the city of Tacoma, it wasn’t long before the community transformed from agricultural to more industrial.
Today, Fife has a strong presence in such industries as retail and manufacturing. The city, for instance, is home to Milgard Windows & Doors’ manufacturing facility and Customer Care Center. Founded in 1958, Milgard Windows & Doors started as a glass company in the Pacific Northwest, and has since expanded its facilities, plants, and offices to multiple cities throughout the country.
Fife also is home to numerous car dealerships, including Honda of Fife, I-5 Motors, Volvo Cars Tacoma, BMW Northwest, and Lexus of Tacoma at Fife, to name a few. According to Kim, car dealerships represent about 60 percent of the city’s sales tax base.
“We’re trying to find ways where we can continue to support them (as the city evolves) to allow them to see Fife as a viable location for their business. One of the things that we are very much tracking is the fact that the I-5 mainline and having that frontage for these dealerships is crucially important to them,” said Kim, noting that the planned Sound Transit station and rail line will be elevated to help ensure visibility of the dealerships and not “cast a shadow on those businesses.”
Per the approved Sound Transit 3 plan, the project includes the extension of light rail service from the Federal Way Transit Center to Tacoma via I-5 with four new stations, including one in Fife, which will have a new parking garage. The 9.7-mile project also includes stations in south Federal Way, east Tacoma, and the Tacoma Dome Station. According to Sound Transit, it will be completed in 2030 and is projected to serve between 27,000 and 37,000 riders daily.
“We’re getting a station and a parking garage somewhere in our north side, and that’s going to be an incredible positive disruption to what is here today,” Kim said. In the coming years, the city will work to further develop the north side to help accommodate the expected influx of new residents looking to live near the planned station.
Additional projects Kim was quick to highlight include the two-phase Port of Tacoma Road Interchange Project and the SR 99 improvements. According to the city, the interchange project will provide road, intersection, and interchange improvements by reconfiguring the existing interchange to a split diamond with one-way couplet. The Port of Tacoma Road and its existing bridge over I-5 will be converted to one-way southbound traffic, while the parallel 34th Avenue East and its new bridge over I-5 (phase two) will be made one-way northbound.
“This project is a key step forward in solving our transportation issues in this region, and sets the stage for the future of Fife,” Fife Mayor Kim Roscoe said last July.
Once completed, access to the Port of Tacoma and the operation of I-5 mainline are expected to be improved. The design work for phase two has begun, and roughly 70 to 80 percent of the funding has been secured, Kim said.
Meanwhile, the SR 99 project, which is roughly 60 percent complete, is a pedestrian improvement on the north side of SR 99 in Fife. Enhancements include new pedestrian and roadway lighting, pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, street trees, curbs, and gutters.
“Overall, our capital planning for the next 10 years shows that the city has about $300 million in infrastructure projects that we’re trying to do. All of those projects, there is a local benefit to the city of Fife, but all of those projects primarily serve to benefit the region as a whole,” Kim said.
As these infrastructure projects further transform Fife and spur additional growth, the city also is looking at ways to make the area a more attractive place to live, work, and play. That includes reexamining current land holdings, consolidating city operation locations for greater efficiencies, and redeveloping outdated facilities.
“We have an immense opportunity to redevelop,” Kim said. “That’s beneficial to industry, to private investment, but also to our residents.”