Bellevue to decide on tunnel terms next week
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
August 3, 2011 · Updated 11:19 AM
Though Sound Transit has decided on a light-rail alignment, it is still in the process of working out the terms of a downtown tunnel in Bellevue.
The Bellevue City Council will vote Monday on whether or not to accept a broad term sheet as a framework to move forward with more in-depth negotiations. Councilmembers made it clear last week that there is still a lot of negotiating to be done between now and the final decision point on the tunnel agreement, Oct. 25.
Councilmembers have until Aug. 10 to decide on loose terms, and the body called a special meeting Monday to iron out issues. The term sheet begins the negotiations on funding, and the dialog between Sound Transit and the council on mitigation measures for Sound Transit's route down Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue.
Some Bellevue councilmembers displayed frustration that all the work on the B7 alignment along the BNSF rail corridor didn't persuade Sound Transit to change its mind. But that time has passed, they said, and it's time to work on collaborative alignment.
"Given the cards we had to play, I just can't come up with a way we could play them any better," said Councilmember Kevin Wallace. "I feel like I can look my constituents in the eye and tell them with respect to the overall alignment, we did the best we could, and we still find ourselves here."
Wallace said the talks will focus on Sound Transit's preferred alignment, and the goal of mitigation talks would be to leave the area surrounded by Surrey Downs, Enatai and other neighborhoods in better shape than it was.
Looking northward, this round of negotiations focuses primarily on a downtown tunnel. Sound Transit and Bellevue must find between $276 and $300 million to fund the tunnel, with Bellevue contributing approximately $160 million.
Councilmembers suggested a number of adjustments to Sound Transit's term sheet.
Mayor Don Davidson wanted to remove a waiver of litigation Sound Transit requested in the term sheet.
"I feel like I'm eating the elephant one bite at a time, and if we're going to go into negotiations, I'd like everything to be on the table."
Jennifer Robertson and others wanted to see language about the two groups collaborating to bring down costs.
"If we are partnering with them, we need to be able to get into the kitchen and cook with them," she said.
Still others were concerned that they were betraying their position on the B7 route, and made sure to reiterate that opinion.
"I don't want to get into the kitchen with a 600-pound gorilla," said Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee. "If I have to, I want to make sure the public knows my principles."
Councilmembers weren't the only ones fired up about the negotiations. Supporters of the B7 route turned out en masse, to remind Bellevue of their preference. Nearly 100 people erupted in thunderous applause after a speech by Building a Better Bellevue member Renay Bennett and brandished signs touting the benefits of the route. Few of these people showed up to the Sound Transit meeting Thursday, where the overwhelming majority pushed the board to move forward with its preferred alignment.Contact Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Nat Levy at email@example.com or 425-453-4290.