Sound Transit updates Bellevue City Council on latest light rail tunnel option

On Monday, the Sound Transit staff briefed the Bellevue City Council on a revised light-rail tunnel alternative for Downtown Bellevue, adding a new tunnel option for a light rail route along 110th Avenue Northeast.

The presentation by Sound Transit staff was the next step in the East Link project, a service that is slated to start in 2020. East Link is a voter-approved plan to extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue, to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.

The city and Sound Transit officials are working to come to an agreement on a route preference through Downtown Bellevue. On Oct. 8, the Sound Transit Board of Directors considered a modification to the suite of downtown Bellevue East Link alternatives.

The new plan, called Alternative CT9, identifies a third tunnel option that would run from Main Street, north under 110th Avenue Northeast, then east on Northeast Sixth Street on elevated tracks over Interstate 405. The plan calls for stations near the intersection of Main and 112th Avenue, Northeast Fourth Street and 110th Avenue Northeast, and in the BNSF corridor just north of Northeast Eighth Street.

A cost estimate for this option is expected to be available mid-to-late November.

In May, Sound Transit’s board expressed a preference for a street-level route, Alternative C4A, running the trains in opposite directions on two roadways, 108th and 110th avenues northeast. The route would connect with the Bel-Red corridor off Northeast 12th Street with a stop near 116th Avenue Northeast in the hospital district.

After reviewing Alternative C4A, Bellevue councilmembers maintained a downtown tunnel would be needed in order to avoid traffic congestion on streets in the busy downtown area. Two tunnel options were identified at an estimated cost of $500 million more than the street-level or elevated alternatives.

The first tunnel option identified was Alternative C3T, placing tracks below Main Street and 108th Avenue Northeast and running above ground along Northeast 12th Street. The city pointed to the possible impacts to the properties along Northeast 12th Street as a negative factor.

The newest tunnel option looks more promising, according to councilmembers, who see the new alternative route as beginning to close the gap between the at-grade (C4A) alternative and the 108th Avenue Northeast (C3T) alternative.

The new 110th Avenue tunnel option would avoid any impacts along Northeast 12th Street and has a shorter underground portion then the C3T tunnel option previously presented. The shorter underground distance could equate to less cost, but the plan still exceeds Sound Transit’s ST2 budget, requiring Bellevue to identify funding options by the end of this year.

In early 2010, the Sound Transit Board is expected to revisit its preferred alternatives and choose which route to focus engineering on. The final environmental impact statement is scheduled for release in fall 2010 followed by design work and construction slated to begin in 2014. As it stands, light rail service is scheduled to arrive in Bellevue in 2020.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425.453.4602.

By Lindsay Larin

llarin@bellevuereporter.com

On Monday, the Sound Transit staff briefed the Bellevue City Council on a revised light-rail tunnel alternative for Downtown Bellevue, adding a new tunnel option for a light rail route along 110th Avenue Northeast.

The presentation by Sound Transit staff was the next step in the East Link project, a service that is slated to start in 2020. East Link is a voter-approved plan to extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue, to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.

The city and Sound Transit officials are working to come to an agreement on a route preference through Downtown Bellevue. On Oct. 8, the Sound Transit Board of Directors considered a modification to the suite of downtown Bellevue East Link alternatives.

The new plan, called Alternative CT9, identifies a third tunnel option that would run from Main Street, north under 110th Avenue Northeast, then east on Northeast Sixth Street on elevated tracks over Interstate 405. The plan calls for stations near the intersection of Main and 112th Avenue, Northeast Fourth Street and 110th Avenue Northeast, and in the BNSF corridor just north of Northeast Eighth Street.

A cost estimate for this option is expected to be available mid-to-late November.

In May, Sound Transit’s board expressed a preference for a street-level route, Alternative C4A, running the trains in opposite directions on two roadways, 108th and 110th avenues northeast. The route would connect with the Bel-Red corridor off Northeast 12th Street with a stop near 116th Avenue Northeast in the hospital district.

After reviewing Alternative C4A, Bellevue councilmembers maintained a downtown tunnel would be needed in order to avoid traffic congestion on streets in the busy downtown area. Two tunnel options were identified at an estimated cost of $500 million more than the street-level or elevated alternatives.

The first tunnel option identified was Alternative C3T, placing tracks below Main Street and 108th Avenue Northeast and running above ground along Northeast 12th Street. The city pointed to the possible impacts to the properties along Northeast 12th Street as a negative factor.

The newest tunnel option looks more promising, according to councilmembers, who see the new alternative route as beginning to close the gap between the at-grade (C4A) alternative and the 108th Avenue Northeast (C3T) alternative.

The new 110th Avenue tunnel option would avoid any impacts along Northeast 12th Street and has a shorter underground portion then the C3T tunnel option previously presented. The shorter underground distance could equate to less cost, but the plan still exceeds Sound Transit’s ST2 budget, requiring Bellevue to identify funding options by the end of this year.

In early 2010, the Sound Transit Board is expected to revisit its preferred alternatives and choose which route to focus engineering on. The final environmental impact statement is scheduled for release in fall 2010 followed by design work and construction slated to begin in 2014. As it stands, light rail service is scheduled to arrive in Bellevue in 2020.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425.453.4602.

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