East Link debate | Could a routing solution come from the outside?
September 23, 2009 · Updated 5:27 PM
Sound Transit may have all the "deciders" when it comes to East Link, but it's local stakeholders who are coming up with fresh ideas about how to solve the debate over routing.
A private-interest group lead by Bellevue City Council candidate Kevin Wallace is working to develop a new option for the hotly disputed South Bellevue and the Downtown segments.
Wallace – an executive for his family's real-estate management company, Wallace Properties – is designing an option dubbed the "Vision Line," which has been in flux since 2008.
Wallace told The Reporter this week that he hopes to have a comprehensive plan ready for the city and the Sound Transit board of directors by the end of the year.
"We're working with an engineering firm and putting the finishing touches on it," he said.
Another Downtown stakeholder told The Reporter that an unspecified plan for Downtown routing could be presented as early as the end of this week.
Wallace wouldn't describe what his group's work-in-progress looks like, but several sources familiar with the design said it would run East Link along the BNSF right-of-way through South Bellevue, and keep it close to the west side of I-405 through Downtown.
From there, the tracks would cross the freeway at Northeast 6th Street and connect again with the BNSF path en route to the Bel-Red corridor (see map for details).
This anticipated design would avoid the $500 million tunnel option that the city is lobbying for to protect its Downtown business interests.
It also nullifies the residential property takings that would be necessary with Sound Transit's preferred route and appeases a multitude of residents who don't want East Link running along Bellevue Way, 112th Avenue Southeast, or Main Street.
One concern about Sound Transit's preferred alternative is noise. Light rail is generating enough racket at certain points along the Central Link line to violate federal noise standards.
Wallace told The Reporter he believes East Link should travel close to I-405 to avoid noise impacts to West Bellevue neighborhoods like Surrey Downs and Enatai.
"If we have an opportunity to run East Link through town without impacting residential neighborhoods, then we should take that opportunity," he said.
Residents from Surrey Downs, Enatai, and other neighborhoods are pressuring Sound Transit to utilize the BNSF line through South Bellevue to avoid impacts to their communities.
"It's more realistic and financially achievable," said Joseph Rosmann, who lives in Surrey Downs. "There's a lot of heavy lifting going on to make a case with Sound Transit and the city leaders. We applaud what they're doing, and we think it's a great idea."
City Council opted against recommending the BNSF route, citing concerns about the potential traffic impacts from a proposed park-and-ride near Southeast Eighth Street and 118th Avenue Southeast.
Rosmann, though, has designed a hybrid light-rail station/park-and-ride that he says could eliminate that problem. The structure would allow vehicles using Southeast Eighth Street to cross beneath the facility, while allowing traffic to move to and from the interstate using fly-over ramps.
City Council voted unanimously in May to refer this plan to the Sound Transit board for consideration. The hybrid station could also be included in the anticipated "Vision Line."