Bellevue council votes for more study of its preferred light-rail route
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
October 6, 2010 · Updated 9:02 AM
The City Council Monday green-lighted $670,000 in spending for the first of three phases for further study of its preferred route for East Link light-rail through south Bellevue.
This first phase redefines the preferred B7 alternative, which takes the rail line down the BNSF rail corridor, adding a new Park and Ride in south Enatai, eliminating the 118th station and adding an East Main station at the Red Lion site.
The full study, presented to the council Monday, would take between two and three years and cost more than $3.5 million if funded and analyzed completely. The study would give the council the full "apples-to-apples" comparison it seeks between its preferred route and Sound Transit's B2M route.
Even the first phase, which Transportation Director Goran Sparrman said would likely be completed in June or July, won't be done when the Sound Transit Board of Directors is expected to make its final decision this spring on which alternative to consider.
The council voted 3-2 for the further study, with council members Grant Degginger and Claudia Balducci in opposition to Kevin Wallace, Don Davidson and Jennifer Robertson (John Chelminiak and Conrad Lee were absent).
Those in favor supported the study because they wanted to have more information to sway Sound Transit to reconsider the B7 alternative.
"Hopefully Sound Transit will recognize its ability to take an honest look at B7 through these efforts," Mayor Don Davidson said.
But there was concern that by only passing the first phase, the council was committed to spending money that may not result in a thorough enough study. Many of the major assessments of noise, ridership and environmental impacts were not in phase one.
Furthermore, Council members in opposition pointed out that other neighborhoods would be impacted by B7, much like they would be in Sound Transit's option.
"We have to be honest with ourselves," Degginger said. "We're not protecting our neighborhoods; we're just picking which neighborhoods are going to be impacted. We're picking winners and losers."
Council member Wallace, who brought forth the first version of this scope of work several weeks ago, felt the full scope of the study wasn't necessary. He thought a ridership and cost estimate and a map would be enough data to ease Sound Transit's concerns of lower ridership for the B7 route.
The first portion of the analysis involves nailing down the exact dimensions of the B7 alignment. In this segment the new stations will be analyzed, and an open-house will be held to begin the public engagement process.
Though the project documents rely on heavy public participation, Council member Balducci was concerned that no outreach had been down for residents of South Enatai who would be greatly impacted by the new park and ride.
"We haven't held a public meeting since November, and now we're going ahead with this A2 parking garage that's going to be plopped in the middle of south Enatai and some people might not even know about it."
This step involves designing new stations and performing beginning ridership and transportation studies to determine how many people will ride the rail on this route and the potential traffic impacts. According to project documents, this portion of the project should take six to seven months and cost $670,000.
The second phase of study concerns environmental impacts. After the four to six months this analysis will yield data on par with a draft Environmental Impact Statement. This phase will begin to give council the beginning estimates of cost and ridership that it seeks. This phase is expected to cost $450,000.
The final phase of analysis and engineering advances the alignment up to 15 percent conceptual engineering, which is the level of study currently completed for B2M. This phase would yield more advanced data and cost estimates for the revised B7, and it could take anywhere from one to two years, according to project documents.
Having OK'd the first phase of work, the city will now advertise the job for bid, with the top candidates being evaluated based on qualifications rather than lowest cost, which is the deciding metric in many contract bids.Contact Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Nat Levy at email@example.com or 425-453-4290.