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News Release


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Council Roundup: Briefed on East Link light rail

Six days before the Saturday launch of Sound Transit's Central Link light rail line in Seattle, the Bellevue City Council received a briefing on East Link, a voter-approved plan to extend light rail from downtown Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond.

On Monday, Sound Transit staff reviewed work it must do over the next year to prepare for a final decision by its Board of Directors by fall 2010 about exactly where East Link will be located and what it will look like.

The agency is scheduled to break ground on East Link in 2013 and begin light rail service to downtown Bellevue in 2020.

Council members also discussed tasks Bellevue needs to complete in coming months. The biggest challenge for the city will be finding additional money to pay for a light rail tunnel through downtown, which costs more than a street-level configuration.

The council in February selected its preferred route for East Link and in May Sound Transit's Board of Directors narrowed its choices for the various segments. A completed environmental review of is scheduled for completion in fall 2010, followed by the final route decision. Several public open houses are planned before that time.

While there were many areas of agreement between the two organizations on preferred routes, there were also important differences. Sound Transit agreed to do further study on Bellevue's preferences, seek outside review of how street-level light rail would affect downtown and respond to Bellevue's questions about the two tunnel alternatives selected for more analysis.

Bellevue will also need to perform more analysis on several aspects of the East Link project. To do that and to further prepare for light rail, Council members considered a staff work plan that includes funding for a variety of planning tasks. Most of the money to pay for the needed work would come from funds reallocated from other projects in the city's Capital Investment Program.

Tasks include finding new funding sources by the first quarter of 2010 to pay for a downtown tunnel, planning and engineering work related to the final environmental impact statement and analyzing the proposed downtown street-level alternative.

A final decision on allocating funds for the work plan is expected at the council's next meeting on July 20.

The council agenda memorandum offers more information, including CIP projects from which funds would be reallocated for use in East Link analysis.

Feedback: Bernard van de Kamp, Regional Projects Manager, 425-452-6459 or bvandekamp@bellevuewa.gov

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