Public meetings scheduled to review light-rail design
September 8, 2011 · 2:24 PM
The public will have a chance to comment on potential design changes to East Link light-rail through Bellevue at an open house Sept. 20 and a public hearing six days later.
But many question marks remain.
With an Oct. 24 deadline to negotiate a memorandum of understanding on funding for a downtown tunnel, coupled with an ambitious public outreach strategy from the city of Bellevue to hold multiple open houses and publicly present a draft of the MOU, time has become a scarce resource. Much of the information needed to make these key decisions is still being put together by Sound Transit.
The council is set to discuss the negotiations at each Monday meeting until the deadline, and another open house could be held in early October.
Council members batted a number of proposals back and forth before settling on the September meetings. Some plans had open houses planned for a week before the MOU deadline, but several council members felt this plan would not allow citizens’ opinions to be factored into the process. Council members and staff will now explore with their Sound Transit counterparts extending the October deadline to allow for better public process.
“If we don’t have the time or the money to do it right, we sure don’t have the money to do it twice,” said Council Member Jennifer Robertson.
On the other end of the issue is the negotiations, with much of the data still uncertain. The council Monday got a look at two proposals for rail up 112th Avenue and Bellevue Way that appeared to disappoint.
Both concepts were incomplete, but Sound Transit presented options of running rail elevated from the “Y-intersection” of Bellevue Way and 112th to Surrey Downs Park, and an at-grade option with a single street crossing. The crossing would be able to be controlled using a traffic light, avoiding the noisy warning bells, that many council members are wary of.
Council members showed frustration that they were pursuing an ambitious outreach program while much of the information, including costs and more detailed sketches, were not available.
“This is crazy; we need to take realisitc amount of time,” said Council Member Kevin Wallace. “Sound Transit wants us to cooperate, fine, but not on this schedule. We need a realistic schedule, and we need to get all the information to make a decision about whether it’s prudent for this city to pay $160 million towards Sound Transit’s light-rail line.”
Council members pushed for the inclusion of a “retained cut” design for much of the route. By cutting into the hills along 112th and planting the tracks inside, the land acts as a natural sound and visual barrier to nearby homes and businesses. There was also talk of cutting deep enough into the landscape that the train could cross 112th Avenue underground at Southeast 15th Street. But this could add tremendous cost to the project, Deputy City Attorney Kate Berens said. Sound Transit will have more accurate numbers for these potential changes by Sept. 12, staff said.