Bellevue City Council still worried about street-level light rail in downtown
May 21, 2009 · 9:47 AM
City Council members Monday reiterated their concerns that running light rail at street level in downtown Bellevue could undermine the performance and reliability of the entire East Link regional line now being planned by transit officials.
The council’s remarks came during a study session on East Link. The session was held five days after the Sound Transit Board of Directors voted to narrow the number of East Link light rail routes for further study, selecting both tunnel and street-level routes for preliminary engineering studies in the downtown.
“The council continues to believe a street-level route is seriously flawed and could undermine the integrity of the entire East Link transit line and choke bus, truck, car and emergency vehicle traffic in the downtown area,” Mayor Grant Degginger said after the study session.
“We are committed to work with Sound Transit to identify project savings in the Bellevue segment and to identify additional revenue sources to bridge the gap” to fund the tunnel option.
The tunnel option would add about $500 million to the cost of the Bellevue link for light rail.
East Link is part of a larger package of transit improvements approved by voters in November 2008. The line will extend light rail service 18 miles from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue, to the Overlake area of Redmond.
A draft environmental review of the East Link project was released in December. Sound Transit will continue to study both tunnel and street-level designs until early 2010, then narrow its engineering study down to a single option. A final environmental impact statement is scheduled for release in summer 2010, followed by a final route selection by the Sound Transit Board. Construction of East Link is set to start by 2014, with light rail service to Bellevue slated to begin in 2020.
Council members Monday also said they were pleased the Sound Transit Board had selected a tunnel option for more analysis; however, there was disappointment that a council-endorsed tunnel plan was not chosen the preferred alternative.
Highlights of the alternatives selected by Sound Transit for further study in the Bellevue portion of East Link include:
South Bellevue, I-90 to Southeast Sixth Street (Alternative B3): Runs at street-level on the east side of Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast, then an elevated line behind commercial buildings at Southeast Eighth Street. Includes a 1,400-stall garage at the South Bellevue Park and Ride and preservation of HOV ramps to I-90.
Downtown, Southeast Sixth Street to Northeast 12th Street (Alternatives C4A, C3T and C2T): Alternative C4A would run at street-level north on 110th Avenue Northeast and south on 108th Avenue Northeast, with stations at Main and 112th Avenue, at Northeast Sixth Street and near Interstate 405. Alternative C3T, a tunnel beneath 108th Avenue Northeast, also will be studied. The council’s preferred downtown alignment, a tunnel underneath 106th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Sixth Street (C2T), will have some additional study to address specific questions raised by Bellevue officials.
Bel-Red Corridor, I-405 to Overlake Transit Center (Alternative D2A): Street-level alignment on Northeast 16th Street with stations at 124th and 130th avenues Northeast. Further study will be done on a proposal by a private development company for a “retained cut” under 120th Avenue Northeast, and for a public-private partnership if that option wins approval.