Council gets update on Bellevue light rail plans

Bellevue city councilmembers say they generally approve of design plans for an extended City Hall Plaza to provide connectivity to the future site of the Bellevue Transit Center Station on Northeast Sixth Street, but cautioned the unknown cost may require scaling back.

This artist rending shows a proposed design for the Bellevue Transit Center Station downtown near City Hall on Northeast Sixth Street.

Bellevue city councilmembers say they generally approve of design plans for an extended City Hall Plaza to provide connectivity to the future site of the Bellevue Transit Center Station on Northeast Sixth Street, but cautioned the unknown cost may require scaling back.

Sound Transit staff provided the council with an update Monday of its East Link extension project, including progress on design work, property acquisitions and challenges ahead for bringing light rail to Bellevue.

The agency is confident its track bridge, which will span a portion of I-90 and the floating bridge into Bellevue, will be able to correctly adjust to the changes in water elevation at Lake Washington following testing in Pueblo, Colo., said Ron Lewis, deputy light rail director. Testing will continue as the project moves forward.

Sound Transit expects to submit its 60-percent plans for the South Bellevue Station and downtown tunnel to the city later this month, and Lewis said all Bellevue alignments should be received by the city within the end of the month.

Right of way acquisition continues in the Bel-Red Corridor and along 112th Avenue Southeast in Surrey Downs. Lewis said Sound Transit has made offers on all 41 condominiums within the project area of the East Main Transit Station and will proceed with single-family homes after, but appraisals are still being conducted. Some properties will only require partial acquisition.

“Our policy is not to make full acquisitions when we don’t need to,” said Lewis, later adding competitiveness from the construction market’s appreciation is a challenge to maintain costs.

Councilmembers were given a look at design plans for an expanded City Hall Plaza, which would connect to the site of the Bellevue Transit Center Station on Northeast Sixth Street, which will be constructed near the current transit center.

The city hired the same landscape architect who originally designed the plaza.The expansion proposal includes a large reflecting pool and a garden, which would include trees and sculptures provided by the city of Bellevue’s sister cities. A stump art piece already located in the plaza would be relocated to the reflecting pool.

It is uncertain how much the expansion would cost, said Nora Johnson, director for the city’s civic services department, but estimated the project to be $1.5 million-$2 million.

Councilmember John Stokes said the city should consider relocating the pavilion in the plaza now rather than later while John Chelminiak suggested holding off on expanding the plaza until Sound Transit is done using a portion of the site for East Link construction staging.

Councilmember Kevin Wallace said he’ll be curious to see what the final design is estimated to cost, and Claudia Balducci said the city can subtract features like it did when the City Hall building was constructed to cut costs.

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