Also, Energize Eastside questions explored and Development Services adds staff
The City Council Monday approved an expansion of Bellevue's photo enforcement program, from three red-light cameras and two school-zone cameras to six red-light cameras and three school-zone cameras.
In an effort to improve traffic safety at busy intersections and school zones, the city in 2009 and 2010 installed cameras to catch red-light runners and school-zone speeders. Those cameras are at two intersections on 148th Avenue and near Stevenson and Lake Hills elementary schools.
Police data show that the cameras now in place generally have changed driver behavior and increased safety. The number of infractions from both speed and red-light cameras have decreased from 22,798 in 2010 to 11,956 in 2013.
In March the Police Department recommended adding cameras to improve safety at two more major intersections along Northeast Eighth Street. One red-light camera will be installed at 116th Avenue and two will be placed at 112th Avenue, along with a school-zone camera at Sunset Elementary School on West Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast.
Photo enforcement infractions result in a $124 fine. There will be a one-month grace period for drivers caught by the new cameras, during which they will receive warnings in the mail rather than citations. The cameras are likely to be installed in the fall.
In 2013, photo enforcement generated $923,000 in net revenue for the city, after the vendor, American Traffic Solutions, and King County, which operates the district court, were paid for their services. The four new cameras are expected to generate about $690,000 in 2015.
The council approved a five-year contract with ATS for operation of all of the enforcement cameras. The city's annual cost will be $441,000.
Energize Eastside questions discussed
Responding to concerns expressed by residents about a proposed electrical transmission line through Bellevue, the city will review Puget Sound Energy's plans for the "Energize Eastside" project.
After a recap of extensive outreach conducted by the city about the project, the council Monday discussed what questions should be addressed during project review and which ones would likely require technical experts for help with the answers.
While it is a PSE project, the city will manage the required environmental review, collaborating with PSE, the county and neighboring cities also affected by the project.
The council considered several questions, focused on determining the need for a new transmission line, its purpose, alternative ways to meet the city's power needs and how to mitigate potential impacts.
"I want to make sure we're able to get whatever information is necessary so that the decision at the end of the day is a good decision," Mayor Claudia Balducci noted.
Staff reported that questions concerning the need for additional electrical supply and economic impact will need to be answered with the help of technical experts. Staff presented answers to the questions about mitigation and the scope of the environmental review required for the project.
While a number of questions about the project will be addressed in an environmental impact statement, councilmembers agreed that additional independent review would likely be needed. The council will gather more input and decide on a course of action on August 4.
Development Services adds staff to keep up with construction
It's official: development activity in Bellevue has rebounded from the Great Recession.
New projects include office towers, apartment buildings, hotels and retail. From 2011 through 2013, the number of permits issued jumped by 27 percent. The construction boom includes major downtown projects, resulting in a 234-percent increase in the estimated value of construction underway in the city.
Development Services delivers coordinated services, and strives to provide responsive permit review and inspections. Development Services Director Mike Brennan reported Monday that nearly 24 positions have been added over the last year to keep up with a burst of construction. With the added staff, Development Services is better able to manage the flood of permit applications.
All the construction can cause some inconvenience from street and lane closures, but Brennan noted that it makes for a vibrant, sustainable and exciting city in the long run.
Permit activity is expected to continue at a high level into 2015, with East Link construction just beginning next year. The council Monday extended support for the city to hire two additional inspectors (mechanical and building) to keep pace with the increasing construction activity.
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