Possible cost saving options for East Link on display at open house

Bellevue and Sound Transit are exploring numerous options to save money on East Link light-rail, including moving buildings and stations.

All of the options are in early stages of development, and residents have a chance to weigh in during a a joint open house with Sound Transit 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. Attendees can learn about design alternatives and provide feedback. There will also be information about cost-saving ideas that were considered and rejected, the status of the project, and the latest schedule.

Thus far options discussed include potentially moving the historic Winters House and changes to the depth and location of a downtown underground station.

Since January, Bellevue has been working with the transit agency, which is building East Link, on a unique “collaborative design process” to pinpoint cost savings and reduce the city's financial contribution for a downtown light rail tunnel.

The collaboration is the result of an agreement Bellevue forged last year with Sound Transit, under which the city will provide $100 million in low- or no-cost property contributions toward the cost of a tunnel. Another $60 million in “contingent” contributions by the city is the focus of the cost savings effort; the city’s goal is to reduce that contribution to zero. In addition to cost, the agreement addresses the project's scope, schedule and budget, and design modifications to minimize impacts on neighborhoods.

The 14-mile-long East Link route will run from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond. Six miles of the line will run through Bellevue, with six light rail stations located within the city's boundary.

After Thursday’s open house, more design work will be done on the cost-saving concepts. A second open house will be in June, and will include more detailed information and costs savings estimates about the options. Following that, the council and Sound Transit Board will decide which concepts should be studied more closely.

The latest schedule calls for reaching the 60 percent design mark on the project in 2013 and for property acquisitions also to begin next year. Construction of East Link is set to begin in 2015, and service to Bellevue is projected to start in 2023.

For more information on the collaborative design process, see the council study session material at  Council meetings are shown live on Bellevue Television (Channel 21) and streamed live on the city’s website.

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