City working on compromise for South Bellevue light rail
January 22, 2010 · Updated 1:25 PM
The Bellevue City Council took a fresh approach to one of its thorniest issues Tuesday, requesting work on a hybrid light-rail plan for South Bellevue.
The proposed design appears to be a compromise between those who want to attract more train passengers with the highly frequented South Bellevue park-and-ride, and those who want East Link to run along the abandoned BNSF rail corridor.
The new variation would extend the park-and-ride lot on Bellevue Way SE to accommodate a light-rail station. The route would then turn east across Mercer Slough Nature Park before curving onto the BNSF right-of-way, and then toward downtown by way of 118th and 114th avenues.
The city is drafting a letter to Sound Transit requesting consideration of the line, and the council is expected to discuss the matter again on Jan. 25.
"We need quite a bit more information to call it a preferred alignment, but we all agree it's worth developing that information," said councilmember Claudia Balducci, a newly appointed member of the Sound Transit board.
In February, the council recommended a South Bellevue route along Bellevue Way SE and 112th Ave. SE. But residents from the Surrey Downs neighborhood oppose that plan because of its potential impacts to their communities.
The alternative idea is to run East Link along the BNSF rail corridor on its way downtown, but condo dwellers living near that route oppose the plan.
The BNSF route is less expensive, and would free up money for a potential downtown tunnel or a future expansion of the light-rail system toward Issaquah.
On the other hand, the Bellevue Way SE alternative utilizes a popular park-and-ride that could attract hordes of riders.
One drawback of the compromise proposal is that it would cross Mercer Slough Nature Park, requiring environmental mitigation.
The council would have to update its routing preferences by March to include them in Sound Transit's final environmental review, which is due by year's end.
Sound Transit's board of directors will make a decision on final routing and station locations after that review is complete.
East Link design work is scheduled to begin in 2011, with construction slated to start by 2014.
Light rail service to Bellevue is expected to launch in 2020.