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Sound Transit presenting another routing alternative for light rail in downtown Bellevue

A transit user awaits a light-rail train at an underground station in downtown Seattle. The city of Bellevue is pushing for a tunnel option in downtown Bellevue to keep light rail off the streets.  - Chad Coleman / Bellevue Reporter
A transit user awaits a light-rail train at an underground station in downtown Seattle. The city of Bellevue is pushing for a tunnel option in downtown Bellevue to keep light rail off the streets.
— image credit: Chad Coleman / Bellevue Reporter

Sound Transit has developed a new light-rail tunnel alternative for downtown Bellevue, where there is much debate about where and how to run the tracks for East Link.

The agency's newest route (see map for details) would include a tunnel below 110th Avenue Northeast between Main Street and Northeast Sixth Street, along with a subway station adjacent to City Hall at Northeast Fourth Street.

From there the line would extend to the surface at points along Main Street and Northeast Sixth Street.

The route would cross over I-405 from Northeast Sixth Street to meet up with the BNSF right-of-way that runs east of the expressway. A surface station would be located at Northeast Eighth Street to serve Bellevue's hospital district.

Sound Transit planners will present the new routing alternative to the agency's board of directors on Oct. 8 for consideration in their environmental-review process.

The board has already identified a set of preferred alternatives for downtown.

One of those options would run the trains in opposite directions along the surfaces of 108th Avenue Northeast and 110th Avenue Northeast. The route would connect with the Bel-Red corridor by way of Northeast 12th Street, with a stop near 116th Avenue Northeast in the hospital district.

The city of Bellevue strongly opposes this alternative, saying it would increase vehicle congestion and create a regional chokepoint for light rail. There are also concerns about the impacts to McCormick Park, the Ashwood neighborhood, and medical offices in the hospital district.

The board's other preferred alternative is a tunnel option that places the tracks below Main Street and 108th Avenue Northeast, as well as aboveground along Northeast 12th Street.

This option would have similar impacts to the properties along Northeast 12th Street, and it's expected to cost $500 million more than what the voter-approved ST2 plan provides.

The new 110th Avenue tunnel option would avoid any impacts along Northeast 12th Street, and its underground portion would be 3,000 feet shorter than the one proposed for 108th Avenue Northeast.

But the plan still exceeds Sound Transit's ST2 budget, meaning Bellevue would have to come up with the funds to implement it.


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110th Tunnel Option in a larger map

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