The City Council Monday again took up the issue of determining where a future light rail route through Bellevue, and the downtown area in particular, should be located.
The topic of light rail has been considered at more than 30 council meetings over the past three years, as regional provider Sound Transit moves toward a final decision on where the East Link route should be placed.
In early 2009, the council recommended its preferred light rail route for East Link. Shortly after that, Sound Transit's board of directors announced its own preferences. Since then, four new possibilities have emerged and both organizations are scrambling to study them before Sound Transit narrows the choices to a single alternative.
Current plans call for a compressed timetable, with the Bellevue council considering an evaluation on the new downtown alternatives during several meetings in February and deciding on its updated preferred alternative sometime in March.
The Sound Transit Board would then decide on its preferred downtown alternative and it, along with several previously recommended route options, would be studied in depth during a final environmental review set for completion in late 2010. An ultimate decision by the board on routes and station locations for all of East Link will come after that.
Design work is planned from 2011 to 2013, construction of East Link is scheduled to begin by 2014, and light rail service to Bellevue is projected to start in 2020.
East Link was approved by voters in November 2008 as part of a wider ST2 plan to expand the regional light rail system. The East Link portion will extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue and on to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.
On Monday, the council heard a staff report on the latest choices now being studied for a downtown light rail route:
- 110th Avenue tunnel (C9T): Running from 112th Avenue Northeast and Main Street, this route would run west along the south side of Main into a tunnel, then north on 110th Avenue, with an underground station beneath Northeast Fourth Street. It would turn east on Northeast Sixth Street, emerge from the tunnel between 110th and 112th avenues, then cross over Interstate 405.
- 110th Avenue at-grade (C9A): This route would follow the same path as the C9T tunnel, but at street level. A station would be located on Northeast Sixth Street, between 110th and 112th avenues.
- 108th Avenue at-grade (C11A): Route runs along the south side of Main between 112th and 108th avenues, with a station between 110th and 108th, then north in the middle of 108th and east on Northeast Sixth Street, with a station at the Bellevue Transit Center.
- 114th Elevated (C14E): This alternative would be elevated over 114th Avenue Northeast with a station located west of I-405, between Fourth and Sixth streets. It would then cross I-405 near Northeast Sixth Street.
The council favors a downtown tunnel as a way to avoid traffic congestion on streets and to assure that trains run on schedule, but the tunnel options cost up to $500 million more than a street-level alignment, depending on the length of the tunnel. Sound Transit requested that Bellevue identify funding to pay the higher costs of a tunnel.
Some of the issues raised Monday by council members included: questioning whether Bellevue needs to help pay for a tunnel, consultants who have been hired to help evaluate the new options, protecting neighborhoods from unwanted noise, the status of a panel of downtown executives studying tunnel financing, and the height of an elevated light rail line.
For more information on East Link, view the Council Study Session item or the Light Rail and Bellevue web page.
Feedback: Bernard Van de Kamp, Regional Projects Manager, 425-452-6459 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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