The Bellevue City Council has narrowed the options on how to cut the cost of the East Link light rail line to a handful of ideas for further study. The plan, and a list of principles that will guide the next round of work on cost saving ideas, is now in the hands of Sound Transit.
The council approved the plan 6-1 on Monday, with Councilmember Don Davidson voting against it.
The city’s ideas are not a decision to incorporate the ideas into the East Link project. Sound Transit’s Board of Directors considered the ideas at its meeting Thursday, after the Reporter’s deadline.
The council wants further study of cost savings ideas at three locations:
Bellevue Way Southeast/Winters House: Replace a below ground light rail line with a street-level line. One option that will be studied further is to shift Bellevue Way and the light rail tracks to the west and consider adding a high-occupancy-vehicle lane (HOV); another option is to relocate the historic Winters House to the east, and leave the rail line on the east side of the street.
112th Avenue Southeast: Replace a below-ground light rail line the length of 112th with a street-level line as much as possible while maintaining access to the Surrey Downs neighborhood. Crossing 112th from east to west at Southeast 15th Street would be accomplished with a new road overpass for vehicles, above the light rail line. Plans for an elevated flyover for light rail would be dropped.
Downtown tunnel: Continue to study ways to lower the cost of a light rail tunnel station downtown on 110th Avenue Northeast, beneath Northeast Fourth Street, including a stacked tunnel design. Also, study an above-ground station on Northeast Sixth Street.
Bellevue and Sound Transit have been working since January in a “collaborative design process” to identify cost savings. The objective is to reduce the city’s financial contribution for a downtown light rail tunnel.
In a memorandum of understanding that Bellevue and Sound Transit entered into last year, the city agreed to provide $100 million in low- or no-cost contributions toward the cost of a tunnel. Another $60 million in “contingent” contributions by the city is the target of cost savings efforts; the city’s goal is to reduce that contribution to zero.
The next step is for Bellevue and Sound Transit to develop the cost-savings ideas, narrowing the options later this year, prior to a final decision on the project in 2013. Construction on East Link is scheduled to start in 2015 and service to Bellevue is expected to begin in 2023.