Sound Transit and Bellevue officials broke ground on a new light rail maintenance facility in the city’s Spring District on April 4. It will help facilitate the planned light rail expansions in coming years. Aaron Kunkler/Staff Photo

Sound Transit and Bellevue officials broke ground on a new light rail maintenance facility in the city’s Spring District on April 4. It will help facilitate the planned light rail expansions in coming years. Aaron Kunkler/Staff Photo

Construction underway at Sound Transit facility in Bellevue

A groundbreaking ceremony for a light rail maintenance facility was held on April 4.

Local officials met Wednesday to break ground on a new maintenance facility for Sound Transit rail cars in the Spring District of Bellevue, which will come online in 2020.

Once completed the Operations and Maintenance Facility East will accommodate the inspection, service, maintenance, storage and deployment of up to 96 light rail vehicles that will service light rail extensions as part of Sound Transit’s buildout. While the facility was approved as part of Sound Transit 2, it will also serve additional Redmond stations in the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) package. The $54 billion ST3 project was approved by voters in 2016 and will build light rail from Lynnwood to Federal Way and east to Bellevue, Redmond and Issaquah for a total of 114 miles of rail by 2041.

The maintenance facility will employ up to 250 people with 14 service bays, a cleaning and wash bay, a shop and parts storage, office space and onsite parking.

The facility was first proposed in 2014 but received backlash from the community. People were concerned about citing an industrial facility in the neighborhood. Sound Transit, the city of Bellevue and local community groups were able to come to an agreement that allowed the project to proceed. As part of this, the nearly $450 million project will be a transit-oriented development that includes 1.1 million square feet of housing, office and retail space.

“This has turned out to be a much-improved project due to community input,” said Edna Shim, community relations director for Seattle Children’s Hospital and who represented community groups in the planning process.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff spoke at the groundbreaking, saying the project will help connect the Eastside to Seattle as well as to itself. One of Sound Transit’s main goals is to help curb the worsening traffic congestion the Puget Sound area is experiencing. Construction of the Bellevue extension has, in some cases, temporarily worsened traffic.

“We understand that construction can be a hindrance,” Rogoff acknowledged, thanking residents for being patient.

Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak said the transit-oriented design could serve as a model for other transit agencies around the country if it proves to be successful. Light rail will also benefit Bellevue, he said.

“We are at ground zero for the future success of Bellevue,” Chelminiak said.

The Hensel Phelps company secured the bid to construct the facility. A representative said it will take an estimated 620,000 worker-hours to complete and would directly create 1,800 jobs.

When completed there will be 10 stations in the East Link light rail line. These include one in Seattle and Mercer Island, six in Bellevue and two in Redmond. The Eastside stations are scheduled to be operating by 2023.

A final Eastside segment stretching to central Issaquah is planned to be online by 2041. Additional bus services were approved in ST3 for north end cities like Bothell, Woodinville and Kenmore.

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