Council gets look at consultant's light-rail report
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
May 18, 2011 · Updated 1:30 PM
Nearly six months into an independent study on Bellevue's preferred East Link light-rail route, the Bellevue City Council is a step closer to seeing what an "apples-to-apples" comparison of its and Sound Transit's routes looks like.
The council received the first major piece of analysis in a $670,000 study performed by Arup International which gave a preliminary finding that an optimized route along the BNSF rail corridor (B7) is a "feasible alternative" to Sound Transit's original B7 route, but may cost $11 million more, and could exceed the cost of Sound Transit's option by as much as $140 million.
The council was set to vote on whether or not to continue the rest of the study, which is set to be complete in July, but declined to do so because of the absence of Council Member Grant Degginger.
The report is a piece of the puzzle to creating the best B7 route to compare to Sound Transit's B2M option, which travels up Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue into downtown.
"It's a relationship between B7 (revised) and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the original B7; that's the apples-to-apples they're talking about," said Mayor Don Davidson.
Originally, it seemed unlikely that the council would receive the full results of the study, which the council authorized last October, before Sound Transit's Final Environmental Impact Statement came out. But, the EIS has been delayed several times, potentially as far out as September, Davidson said.
Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said the board asked for analysis of the study, and it will discuss the matter at its meeting May 26.
In the report, much of the extra cost comes as the result of the route running through the Red Lion and Sheraton sites. It could require taking both of those properties. But, there is potential for savings, as much as $125 million if all things break correctly, and the route eliminates a station at East Main Street, and some savings can be found in the Red Lion and Sheraton sites.
Council members, and the public, were mixed in their reviews of the study, generally interpreting the study in ways that supported their positions.
Council Member Kevin Wallace, one of the driving forces behind the study, called it "bittersweet." He was excited about lowering the cost of the route up until it met the two hotels, but was caught off guard by the additional expenses of the route, further north in what is called the C section.
"What we have now, we've got the B7 all the way to the Red Lion site in a cost competitive and ridership competitive way," he said.
Other council members were less positive about the results of the study. With the $300 million tunnel through downtown still to be paid for, some council members were not excited by the extra cost potential of the new B7.
"What we've done with this report is we've taken a $300 million problem and turned it into a $450 million problem," Council Member Claudia Balducci said.
During the public comment section of the meeting, speakers on both sides of the issue said the study confirmed the superiority of the route they favored.
Much of the study focused on the presence of a new station near Interstate 90. Called A-2, the station is one of the primary reasons the new route has a similar ridership figure as the B2M. According to figures from the report, ridership originating from the B segment, the major point of contention, would triple with the installation of a new station – to 4,500 boardings.
On the other hand, the 1,450-stall Park and Ride station and the associated traffic mitigation, including an elevated ramp over Bellevue Way to avoid a rash of left turns, will prove both expensive and require the taking of 12 residential properties.
The greatest concerns from the consultants came from building through the Mercer Slough. The unpredictability of peat in the area could affect workers' ability to build a viaduct over the slough along Interstate 405.
"Think of the peat as a slow moving stream," said Arup Project Manager John Eddy. "We are altering that with the introduction of the viaduct."email@example.com or 425-453-4290.