Surrey Downs making noise about light-rail racket | Community concerned with Central Link violating federal limits
August 11, 2009 · Updated 11:28 AM
Surrey Downs residents are nothing if not persistent about keeping light rail away from their neighborhood, having come up with a string of arguments for building along the abandoned BNSF railway instead of 112th Avenue Northeast.
Now the neighborhood has inherited a ready-built case, with Sound Transit acknowledging that its newly opened Central Link line in Tukwila violates federal noise standards. Trains on that route average 65 decibels, which exceeds federal nighttime limits and the levels promised by the agency.
The Sound Transit board has given preferred status to an East Link route that runs adjacent to six residential neighborhoods on the southwest and northwest sides of Bellevue, including Surrey Downs.
A special light-rail committee from Surrey Downs said in a statement to the Bellevue City Council that bringing “loud light rail” through those communities would set a precedent that allows “other external government agencies to further compromise our city and its neighborhoods.”
The committee is asking the city to conduct a study of the projected noise impacts of East Link that accounts for elevated sound readings in Tukwila.
The group has also presented City Council with a video that shows Sound Transit trains moving screechingly along on a Tukwila overpass, as well as a signaling system that dings away noisily on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger said the city will wait to see how Sound Transit responds to the unexpected noise levels before taking any kind of action.
“We’re going to see what Sound Transit plans to do,” he said. “If we’re not satisfied with the answers, we may do an analysis.”
Sound Transit is relying on the same defense it used after failing to meet the original budget and timeline for Central Link construction. The premise is: we always do better on our second run.
“Our noise predictions for Central Link were based on other systems throughout the country,” said Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray. “For East Link, we now have about 15 miles of our own track to base the predictions off of.”
Sound Transit was on the mark in meeting its revised schedule and budget for Central Link.
If noise from the agency’s preferred route doesn’t get to Surrey Downs residents, the sight of sound barriers might. The agency has said it will consider building such structures along Central Link to mitigate its impacts.
“If the fix is sound walls, that’s not going to be acceptable to our community,” said Surrey Downs resident Joseph Rosmann. “That approach to mitigation is not going to solve the problems we have with this (route).”
Soundproofing homes could be another option, according Gray.
The noise-impact argument is one of several cases that the Surrey Downs committee is making against the proposed East Link route that runs along 112th Avenue Northeast.
The Washington Trust for Historic Properties recently placed Surrey Downs on its list of most endangered historic properties, and the committee is using that as another reason to keep light rail away from the area. Transportation projects must avoid or mitigate impacts on historical properties in order to receive federal funds.