Joining three other eastside cities, the Bellevue City Council on Monday endorsed light rail as the preferred mode for a proposed high-capacity transit system that would run from Seattle to downtown Bellevue and then on to Redmond.
By a 5 to 2 vote, Council members approved a letter to Sound Transit Chair John Ladenburg outlining a preference for light rail as the technology for the proposed I-90 corridor HCT project.
Councilmembers Conrad Lee and Don Davidson opposed the letter. Lee requested a decision on whether to support light rail be delayed until the city has further time to address major land use and other issues. Davidson argued a decision to support light rail should be postponed until ways to expand capacity on I-405 are explored in more detail, and Sound Transit completes existing projects.
The proposed I-90 HCT project is expected to go before voters in November, 2007 as part of a larger, regional transportation improvements package. The eastside HCT line would be built as part of Sound Transit’s second phase of mass transit projects for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
The letter sent to Ladenburg and signed by Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger states that "based on the information provided by Sound Transit, it appears light rail will carry more passengers at greater speed and convenience than rail convertible bus rapid transit."
"While light rail is projected to have a somewhat initial higher cost, it avoids both the subsequent cost of retrofitting the corridor and, importantly, the significant service interruptions that would occur when the conversion takes place," the letter states.
The Bellevue City Council's endorsement of light rail brings to four the number of eastside communities that have formally expressed a preference for light rail. In recent months, the mayors of Kirkland, Redmond and Issaquah have all sent letters to Ladenburg in support of light rail.
The Bellevue City Council's decision to send such a letter comes two weeks after the Council took the unique step among Eastside cities of holding a public hearing to solicit resident and other stakeholder input on high-capacity transit.
The hearing was called after the Sound Transit Board requested that the city make a preference between light rail or rail-convertible bus rapid transit.
During the June 26 hearing, many people expressed support for HCT, a view consistent with the City Council's previously adopted interest statement supporting HCT as a major component of the city's long term land use and transportation strategy. That strategy calls for a increase to 40 percent by the year 2020 in the number of people commuting downtown by transit.
Also at the June 26 hearing, many residents voiced concerns about the potential impacts HCT could have on Bellevue's neighborhoods. The letter approved Monday night by the City Council underscored the need to protect the quality of the city's neighborhoods, as well as involve the community in every step of the HCT planning process.
"(Bellevue has) over 35,000 jobs and a growing residential population in our downtown -- a downtown that is surrounded on three sides with outstanding single-family neighborhoods," the letter states. "By 2020, the downtown is projected to have over 63,000 jobs and 14,000 residents. It is imperative that (HCT) is deployed in a manner that will ensure we receive the most positive impacts from the transit system while assuring the least negative impacts to our neighborhood and community.
"The Council places a high priority on ensuring the transit system is compatible with the quality of life currently enjoyed in our neighborhoods and it does not negatively impact our existing roadway capacity."
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