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Bellevue crafting opposition letter to Sound Transit over maintenance facility

Bellevue councilmembers agreed Monday that a letter to Sound Transit opposing Bellevue site options for an operations and maintenance facility needs to be strongly worded, and express the negative economic impact it would create in the Bel-Red Corridor.

The letter will be submitted with formal comments to Sound Transit regarding its draft environmental impact statement, which examines four options for siting an operations and maintenance satellite facility to take on additional East Link fleet — three in Bellevue and one in Lynwood. The comment period ends Monday, June 23.

The council strongly opposes two options — one the most costly and the other the least — that would use the Eastside Rail Corridor and the old International Paper building just west of the new Spring District development.

Councilmembers repeated their frustrations Monday, saying Sound Transit is violating its own plans for transit-oriented development that should complement light rail coming into the city. Councilmember John Chelminiak said a "bus barn" interferes with plans for high-density development that is meant to prevent urban sprawl. He said he wants Sound Transit provided with data showing the economic hit Bellevue faces.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace went further with his objections to Sound Transit, calling the proposals a "bait and switch" since no maintenance facility was planned for Bellevue when the city signed a memorandum of understanding with the agency in 2011. It had been thought at the time that a facility wouldn't be needed until the ST-3 phase, which would have placed it in Redmond.

Wallace said the memorandum is "broken," and the city should consider starting over with Sound Transit. He added East Link alignment and mitigation was not studied with the assumption of a maintenance facility in Bellevue.

"This element of bad faith introduced into the conversation requires that we look at the entire relationship from the beginning and redo everything," he said. "I'm not saying that we kill off light rail or try to."

Mayor Claudia Balducci said she doesn't want to see the council go back to fighting over alignment segments, but believes alignment and a maintenance facility should not be looked at separately just because they have separate environmental impact statements attached.

She also added opposition to a third option that would place the facility over Plaza 520, displacing about 101 businesses south of State Route 520. A member of the Sound Transit board, Balducci told the council they can expect her to vote against any Bellevue options when a preferred alternative is selected on July 24.

Planning Director Chris Salomone told the council Monday that Sound Transit is working with staff and the third-party Urban Land Institute to look at mitigation and screening options should a Bellevue option be considered along the rail corridor. The land institute will be able to submit comments to Sound Transit on June 26, past the comment deadline.

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