Bellevue weighing bus-only traffic lanes

Transit ridership in Bellevue has increased 144 percent over the past decade, but Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace found himself Monday still struggling with a master plan that calls for dedicating traffic lanes for buses.

The city's transportation commission has spent the past two years developing the transit master plan, a public hearing for which will take place June 26, ahead of a council vote.

During an overview of the plan Monday, Wallace repeated concerns about taking away lanes on Bellevue arterials from motorists at peak traffic times to accommodate buses, adding there is already a lack of right of way property the city could use for new lanes.

"I have real concerns germinating seeds in a plan like this by putting projects in it that I don't think belong," Wallace said, adding projects in the TMP wouldn't lead him to oppose the entire master plan.

Of the 107 capital projects proposed in the plan's Capital Vision to improve speed and reliability are eight HOV lane projects, including one of Bellevue Way to be constructed by the state Department of Transportation for better commuter connectivity to the South Bellevue Park and Ride, which will later become a light rail station.

Mayor Claudia Balducci said the overall goal of the city should be getting the most people and vehicles through a constrained space in the quickest amount of time, which will likely mean changes to Bellevue streets. She added its not a matter of prioritizing one mode of transportation over the other.

"If it works, all modes should benefit," she said.

Councilmember John Stokes said he also wants to make sure enough research has been done, calling plan development a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to ensure abundant access for travelers, however, Washington lawmakers could simplify matters by passing through a statewide transportation package.

Councilmembers found no division of opinion regarding the Bellevue College Connection project, which is meant to improve connectivity between campus and Eastgate. While King County Metro eyes a 16-percent cut in service, Bellevue Senior Transportation Planner Franz Loewenherz told the council two of three city recommendations are being considered. Those recommendations being considered by Metro do not include Route 271, he said, which Bellevue College students are fighting to keep running through campus.

The transit master plan will come up for a vote before the council on July 7.

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