Bellevue OKs outline of light-rail talks with Sound Transit over route
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
August 11, 2011 · Updated 9:41 AM
The Bellevue City Council on Monday approved a document that will frame talks between the city and Sound Transit on a downtown light-rail tunnel and adequate mitigation to impacts caused by the train's route through the city.
The two bodies now will dive deep into negotiations that are to be completed by Oct. 25.
The council came close to killing language in the document promising that the city would not sue Sound Transit. However, a motion to remove that language lost out 4-3, with Mayor Don Davidson casting the deciding vote during the special meeting. Davidson mentioned his desire to get into the negotiations as soon as possible.
Councilmember Kevin Wallace and those who supported his motion worried that they were giving up an essential bargaining chip. Language was changed to state that neither party would file suit up until the October deadline. Bellevue still retains its permitting rules and regulations.
"I just don't want people to think this is one step down the line of giving these things up," said Councilmember John Chelminiak. "Sound Transit has to follow our permitting procedures and laws."
With the agreement completed, focus will now shift to the ongoing negotiations. During that time, Bellevue and Sound Transit will have to nail down the details of a downtown tunnel and mitigation measures for the route down Bellevue Way and 112th.
The tunnel will cost about an extra $300 million with Bellevue on the hook for approximately half.
In return for collaborative tunnel talks, the two entities will discuss design changes to the route that makes it more palatable in terms of noise issues and traffic impacts. One of those comes in the form of a new southbound lane on Bellevue Way between the new South Bellevue Park and Ride and the entrance to Interstate 90, which will be paid for by Sound Transit.
The public will have the ability to provide some input on the process, which will take place primarily behind closed doors. The council OK’d at least one public meeting, likely in early September, to help shape negotiations.
It “focuses the conversation on what people want rather than what they don't want," said Councilmember Grant Degginger.firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-453-4290.