The Bellevue City Council was encouraged by the Sound Transit Board of Directors' decision Thursday in favor of a East Link light rail route that includes a downtown tunnel, which the council has long considered critical to the success of a regional light rail system.
Bellevue officials urged the board to allow more time to work out possible terms and conditions to resolve an ongoing dispute between the Eastside's largest city and Sound Transit over routing details.
"The City of Bellevue and Sound Transit have made substantial progress in recent weeks in resolving key differences on the best route for East Link through Bellevue," said Mayor Don Davidson. "Taking time now to get this right will best serve both the region and Bellevue."
Councilmembers unanimously support a light rail tunnel in downtown Bellevue, one of the state's most dynamic employment centers, in order to minimize street congestion and maximize efficiency in the regional transit system.
Representing the council in speaking to the Sound Transit Board Thursday, Councilmember Jennifer Robertson said that Bellevue is equally committed to improving mobility in the region by moving the East Link project forward in a timely way. She also said the council:
- Feels strongly that Bellevue is on the right path and that significant progress has been made, particularly in the last few weeks;
- Remains open to continuing the discussions on terms for the alignment and mitigation, including a major and unprecedented financial contribution from the city;
- Needs time to fully consider the implications of recently proposed alignment changes to the route in south Bellevue, called B2M, and to involve Bellevue citizens who will be affected;
- Believes that adopting an at-grade alignment downtown would seriously damage one of the state's most vibrant economies by increasing traffic delays, and by slowing travel times on the regional light rail system.
"Given the progress we've made in just the last few weeks, it is in the best interest of the region for Sound Transit to continue working with us," Robertson said, "and not to foreclose reaching agreement on the tunnel and potential design changes to the B2M route that address the public's issues and concerns."
Councilmember Claudia Balducci, also a Sound Transit Board member, added that "Today's decision to select a tunnel alignment for downtown Bellevue is a step forward and reflects the progress made by Bellevue and Sound Transit in recent weeks."
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