Bellevue council wants more time for light-rail negotiations, sets public hearing
October 25, 2011 · Updated 10:46 AM
East Link discussions have led to dissension within the Bellevue City Council, but they were able to reach near unanimity on one thing - they need more time.
The council decided Monday to ask Sound Transit for an additional three weeks to work out details of an agreement to fund a downtown tunnel. Bellevue will send a letter requesting the extra time, as well as indicating a preference for an above street-level fly by to cross 112th Avenue into a trench under Northeast Fourth Street, following a 6-1 vote.
"There are no bells on this, there are no gates on this, the train can go 45 miles per hour, it will have higher ridership and the train will have a grade-separated alignment from Seattle to Bel-Red," said Councilmember Jennifer Robertson.
Councilmembers agreed to pursue an agreement that mandates full property acquisition homeowners who would end up living as close as 20 feet to the train.
Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee was the only councilmember to vote against a preference for the elevated track, citing a number of concerns.
"I would still hope that we maintain some of our leverage so we can move forward with strength, rather than no strength," he said.
The council's decision to ask for more time to review a draft of the agreement, which was released Friday, hinges primarily on the need to hold a public hearing. Residents will have a chance to comment on the draft accord Nov. 7, and the council may decide to adopt the agreement or wait another week. Sound Transit is expected to move on the agreement at its meeting this Thursday, and will have another look at its Nov. 17 board meeting.
Councilmembers said they, and the public, need the time to parse the 100-page document that few have seen.
As described by the agreement, Bellevue would be responsible for as much as $160 million of the tunnel's projected cost. $100 million of that would come in 2014 or 2015 through actions such as donation of land and utility improvements.
The rest of the money will be used as a contingency cost. It will be the last source of funds for tunnel construction paid after completion of the project, according to the agreement, and if costs go down, the city won't have to put forth the full amount.
The document features several "off ramps" wherein both parties can terminate the agreement. The city gets an out if Sound Transit refuses to adopt the city's requested design changes. Sound Transit can drop the agreement if Bellevue does not grant a number of permitting changes by the end of 2012, designed to streamline the application process, said Deputy City Attorney Kate Berens.