City Council near decision on light rail route
February 20, 2009 · 9:22 AM
Bellevue City Council members Tuesday again took up the challenge of picking the best light rail route through Bellevue, focusing particular attention on the segment south of downtown, between Interstate 90 and Southeast Eighth Street.
Sound Transit’s East Link project will extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington to Bellevue and on to the Overlake area of Redmond. The proposed route is divided into five segments, three of which run through Bellevue. In the draft environmental review of the project, several alternatives are being studied in each segment.
Last week, the council expressed informal agreement on a preferred route through the Bel-Red area (Segment D) and for a tunnel through most of downtown (Segment C), but was undecided on which of two alternatives would be best for Segment B, the area from I-90 to Southeast Eighth Street.
Tuesday’s study session was the sixth in a series of briefings to determine Bellevue’s preference on where Sound Transit’s East Link light rail route will run, whether it should be elevated, at street level or in a tunnel, and where stations should be located.
The council is expected to choose a preferred route during its next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, just ahead of a Feb. 25 deadline to submit comments to Sound Transit. Sound Transit is expected to make a preliminary recommendation on East Link routing in April, with a final decision expected in mid-2010, after an environmental impact statement is completed.
The two options under discussion Tuesday for Segment B both have impacts on property and have generated considerable interest from residents who live near the proposed routes.
Alternative B7 generally follows a route east along I-90, then north near I-405 to downtown, with a station and park-and-ride lot on 118th Avenue Southeast. Alternative B3 follows Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast north to Southeast Eighth Street, then veers northeast between 112th and 114th avenues, then north toward downtown.
One variation of B3 that was discussed involved having a “side-running” route along the east side of Bellevue Way Southeast and 112th Avenue Southeast, rather than the “median running” light rail line in the middle of the road that was studied in Sound Transit’s draft environmental impact statement.
The side-running route has the potential to lower costs and would place the line farther from residential neighborhoods. But it may require moving the historic, city-owned Winters House from its current location along Bellevue Way Southeast.
Council members also considered other tradeoffs of the B3 and B7 alternatives on issues such park-and-ride lot capacity, traffic delays, construction impacts and environmental concerns.