Bellevue City Council chooses new tunnel route for downtown light rail
By JOSHUA ADAM HICKS
Bellevue Reporter Former Staff Writer
March 18, 2010 · Updated 10:51 AM
The Bellevue City Council agreed unanimously on Monday to support a tunnel option for downtown light rail.
The council directed city staff to draft a letter stating its preference, a move that essentially suspends any talk about the 114th Ave. NE "Vision Line" proposed by council member Kevin Wallace.
Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee was absent from the Monday meeting.
Sound Transit developed the 110th Ave. tunnel alternative – along with three other options – in response to concerns about the costs and impacts of proposed tunnel routes west of 110th Ave.
The council last year stated its preference for an underground line beneath 106th Ave. NE, but early cost estimates indicate that the route would run $600 million over the voter-approved budget.
The council’s new preferred route will still cost $285 million beyond that allowance, according to Sound Transit estimates.
The city is working with Sound Transit to identify cost savings that would close the gap.
“We think at this early date that a grade-separated approach in downtown Bellevue is both fundable and feasible,” said Bellevue City Manager Steve Sarkozy.
Wallace has agreed to go along with the 110th Ave. NE tunnel option, but he said his continued support will be contingent upon the route coming in on budget and avoiding the placement of elevated tracks over the Surrey Downs neighborhood.
The council’s preferred route on 110th Ave. NE would net the greatest daily ridership of the four new downtown alternatives that Sound Transit proposed to address concerns about costs and impacts.
The 110th Ave. tunnel option ties with the Vision Line for shortest vehicle-delay times, according to figures provided by the city.
“I think the tunnel is still the preferable solution,” Degginger said. “It goes where the people want to go. It will be the best long-term solution from an aesthetic standpoint and a functional standpoint.”
Mayor Don Davidson on Monday suggested a possible change for the 110th Ave. tunnel route, saying Sound Transit should consider running the line along NE Second Street rather than Main Street before it turns onto 110th Ave.
"We're going to re-do the road anyhow, with or without Sound Transit," he told The Reporter.
(Originally published March 17)