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Bellevue City Council to discuss Mercer Slough route with Sound Transit

This rendering shows how Sound Transit
This rendering shows how Sound Transit's East Link light rail line would look on the I-90 bridge facing east toward Bellevue.
— image credit: Sound Transit

The Bellevue City Council plans to meet with Sound Transit officials on Feb. 11 to discuss snags that might occur with a proposed compromise route through South Bellevue known as the "B7 Modified" line.

The public meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Meydenbauer Center. It will consist of a workshop, but no public testimony.

The city council has asked Sound Transit to study a new South Bellevue route that would move light rail along Bellevue Way before stopping at the South Bellevue park-and-ride and moving east across the Mercer Slough Nature Park to connect with the abandoned BNSF rail corridor.

That plan appears to be a compromise between factions that are debating whether to run the tracks along Bellevue Way SE or the abandoned rail line. But it also poses questions about environmental impacts to a prized park.

Transportation projects are required by the National Transportation Act of 1966 to avoid or mitigate impacts to sensitive properties, including parks, refuges and historic sites.

This law could be a double-edged sword, as it applies to both Mercer Slough Nature Park and the Surrey Downs neighborhood, the latter of which is listed among the state's most historic properties by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Surrey Downs residents have tried to pull that law into play by saying the proposed South Bellevue line along Bellevue Way SE and 112th Ave. SE (known as B3 Modified) would destroy the character of their single-family home neighborhood with noise and traffic impacts.

But if the B7 Modified and B3 Modified lines are off-limits because of federal guidelines, that leaves only the BNSF route (or B7 un-Modified) as an acceptable option.

This would suit most Surrey Downs residents, but people living near the BNSF rail corridor won't be so keen on the idea.

Sound Transit is working on a final environmental review that is due by year's end, and the agency has not yet decided whether to consider the modified B7 line in the study.

Sound Transit's board of directors will make a final decision on routing and station locations after the environmental review is complete.

East Link design work is expected to begin in 2011, with construction scheduled to start by 2014.

Light-rail service to Bellevue is scheduled to launch in 2020.

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