Council members Monday worked to narrow the options for a preferred light rail route through Bellevue, giving a preliminary nod to a downtown tunnel and focusing on two alignments south of downtown for further consideration.
The study session was part of an ongoing process by the Council to select a preferred route for East Link, the Sound Transit project that will extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington to Bellevue and on to the Overlake area of Redmond.
Council members plan to continue discussing East Link during their next study session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17. They will then make their route preference known by Feb. 23, prior to the Feb. 25 deadline for comments on Sound Transit's draft environmental review of the project.
The Sound Transit Board of Directors is expected to decide in April what route it prefers for the new light rail line. Work will then begin on a final environmental impact report, which is expected to be complete in mid-2010. Soon afterwards, the board will cast its final vote on where to locate the line.
The draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, studied 19 different route options covering five segments from Seattle to Redmond, including 14 routes in three segments that run through Bellevue.
On Monday, Council members expressed interest in a route that travels through the heart of the Bel-Red area in Segment D, the portion of East Link that connects downtown Bellevue to the Overlake area. The route they focused on, Alternative D2A, would travel east on a new Northeast 16th Street to 136th Place Northeast, then travel north and east, mostly along State Route 520 to the Overlake Transit Center. The route, which includes both elevated and street-level sections, is compatible with long-range plans to attract more office and residential development to the Bel-Red area.
In Segment C, the downtown section, the early preference was for Alternative C2T, a tunnel that would run along 106th Street, then head east under Northeast Sixth Street to the Bellevue Transit Center, exiting the tunnel east of 110th Avenue to an elevated line that crosses Interstate 405.
Segment B includes five alternatives that run from Interstate 90 at Lake Washington to just south of downtown. All of the Segment B options under consideration are near residential areas and have drawn intense interest from homeowners in the area and from Council members.
Council discussion of Segment B focused on two options. Alternative B7 roughly follows a route east along I-90, then north near I-405 to downtown, with a station and park-and-ride lot on 118th Avenue Southeast. Alternative B3 follows Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast north to Southeast Eighth Street, then veers northeast between 112th and 114th Avenues, then north toward downtown.
Segment A, connecting Seattle to Bellevue via Interstate 90, contains only one alternative. Council did not express a preference on any of the four alternatives for Segment E, which connects the Overlake area to downtown Redmond.
Council members asked numerous questions of city staff and Sound Transit staff, including queries about changing the location of park-and-ride lots and various tunneling options.
Sound Transit officials reported that more than 500 people attended five public meetings on East Link in recent weeks, including 100 people who commented on the draft EIS. About 350 of those people attended two meetings in Bellevue.
On Feb. 2, the Bellevue Council held a public hearing attended by more than 150 people. Their comments, along with the council's preferred route and a detailed analysis of the DEIS by Bellevue staff, will be sent to Sound Transit by the Feb. 25 comment deadline.
Much of the council's decision making is being aided by Bellevue's Light Rail Best Practices Project, a unique, year-long effort to investigate how light rail works in other North American cities and apply those lessons in Bellevue.
Feedback: Bernard van de Kamp, Bellevue Regional Projects Manager, 425-452-6459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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