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Sound Transit committee names new Bellevue light-rail preferences

The Sound Transit Capital Committee on Thursday voted to recommend an alternative light-rail route for South Bellevue that would run East Link along Bellevue Way and 112th Ave. SE.

The new alignment, known as B2M, is expected to save $50 million to $100 million on the East Link project, making the cost more reasonable for a city worried about the overruns it would have to cover to realize a downtown tunnel.

Previous routing combinations that included downtown tunnels were expected to cost up to $500 million beyond the voter-approved ST2 budget. Seattle Transit Blog reports that B2M would reduce the gap to $185 million.

Details of the B2M route are not yet published.

Bellevue City Council member Claudia Balducci – also a Sound Transit board member – said B2M differs from Sound Transit's initial preferred alternative, B3M, in that it would move directly up 112th Ave SE rather than swerving behind the Bellevue Club at the north end of Segment B.

The cost savings would come, in part, from saving the Red Lion hotel, Balducci said.

The Bellevue City Council last month voted 4-3 in favor of the B7 route for South Bellevue, which would run East Link along the abandoned BNSF rail corridor just west of I-405.

The Capital Committee on Thursday also recommended the following two routes for downtown:

• C9T – the same 110th Ave. NE tunnel route that Bellevue's city council chose as its preferred alternative.

• C11A – a cheaper surface alternative along 108th Ave. NE

Balducci said C11A is considered a sort of backup plan in case a tunnel is not affordable.

The city last month sent a letter to Sound Transit saying it is willing to contribute $104 million to $150 million toward East Link in the form of free access to rights-of-way, waived development fees, and one-time tax revenues that result from the project.

Balducci said the committee's decision to recommend C9T is promising because it could entail design and engineering money for that option, assuming that the Sound Transit board chooses that same route as its preferred alternative.

The committee's recommendation will go to the Sound Transit board, which is expected to name its own preferred alternatives for East Link later this year.

(Originally posted 9 p.m., April 8)

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