Bellevue Looks to Adopt a Rail Overlay District

To some degree or another, Bellevue and Sound Transit have been making headway on their agreements to expedite East Link construction and fund a downtown rail tunnel. Though the surface alignment is still our preferred candidate, failure to uphold the Memorandum of Understanding (pdf) at this point could deal a major setback to the project. One of the MOU agreements is a stipulation for the City to advance a land use code amendment package (pdf) that would make rail-specific provisions in city code.

The legislation of the code amendments is rather lengthy, but an informative technical read for anyone who can spare the time and interest. What the package will do, bottom-line, is implement a light rail overlay district in Bellevue, and in so doing streamline the project’s permitting process, establish development and design standards, and fill the gaps in existing code that might be in conflict with rail implementation.

We’re well beyond alignment battles here, so any firm opposition to the code amendment package that transpires will be an attempt to obstruct or kill East Link entirely. By rule of the MOU, the amendments have to be adopted by the end of the year or else ST will have the right to exercise an off-ramp to opt out of the agreement.

Bellevue will host a public hearing on the matter, which is set for tonight at 7pm* at Bellevue City Hall’s Council Chambers. If you’ve got time, testifying in favor of the land use code amendments is a great way to show the City Council that public interest in getting East Link done is as high as ever.

*Testimony will be first-come, first-serve on a sign-in basis, so earlier is better!

About Ben Schiendelman

Ben Schiendelman joined in 2007 to better consolidate news and information about our upcoming transit expansions, and to build a better base to further grow our system. He previously wrote the blog Higher Frequency, and worked on the 2008 Mass Transit Now campaign. Ben refuses to own a driver's license.




Comments

  1. sven Goldmanis says:

    how can one do this without effecitng the residence that are directly on the line???? how does the city compensate those that will have 100% impact to their lives and their homes??? Or does the City even care about its citizens??? This process shows the lack of capability by our city council to solve even the simpilist of problems and just sit on their hands and do nothing is the mode of operation by the council… Their lack of action is humerous and very distrubing at their capability….. just remember this when you VOTE for your next council person!!!!!

    • The City Council does care about impacts along the line. It is ST and their policy of “partial takes” that the City is trying to do something about. Most likely is the City will buy the affected property and then convert to park space or some other use.

    • The city has to think about the mobility and quality of life of all its residents, not just those in Surrey Downs. The number of people a rail line would benefit far outweigh the number of people in adjacent houses on Bellevue Way and 112th. That’s not to say the adjacent houses are unimportant; they’re a factor too, and deserve consideration in the routing and mitigation. But they can’t be allowed to hold the majority of the city hostage by insisting on no changes to the status quo. Single-family blocks beyond walking distance to anything are part of the problem, so that’s a factor too. If Surrey Downs had more walkable destinations (a design desision made over the past several decades), it would have greater leverage for arguing for no changes, and for a guaranteed station or two.

      • If Surrey Downs had more walkable destinations (a design desision made over the past several decades), it would have greater leverage for arguing for no changes, and for a guaranteed station or two.

        Crossroads got the big red bus. Seems like the destinations that guarantee multiple stations are self storage units and auto repair shops.

    • I think the main impact to home owners near the line/stations is increased property taxes resulting from increased property values. I don’t think there is any adequate way to avoid this, but I doubt most home owners would complain much.

  2. If all the years put into this link results with a surface link through downtown Bellevue, I will laugh and shake my head in disgust at the stupidity of politicians and city officials at Sound Transit and Bellevue. It would also prove that my future career (currently undergrad student) will certainly be in Europe or Asia where priority is made on infrastructure after other essentials like health care and education.

    • Sounds a little extreme. Link was always planned to be at grade through Bellevue until the city council raised a stink about it. There’s no reason why a well executed surface line wouldn’t work. There are countless examples of street-level light rail working just fine, yes, even in Europe!

      • You can’t go through downtown Bellevue at surface-level without accepting a minimum of 10-20 minutes just to get from one end of downtown Bellevue to the other. There’s just too much traffic and too many stoplights. And I don’t believe for a minute in signal priority there because there’s just too many drivers who would be inconvenienced. Run it at surface level, we have the Portland MAX. Run it underground, we have a real subway system.

      • Luckily the plan isn’t to go from one end of downtown to the other. The C11A surface plan only spans about 4 to 5 intersections down a very wide avenue with ample ROW, should the city choose to use it. Obviously a subway implies no delays, but a surface option could be just as reliable and it includes an additional station, increasing the walkshed.

  3. Cheesewheels says:

    There is no excuse for ending up with a surface alignment. This line will extend from Seattle to Redmond. It CANNOT afford to be affected by surface traffic or pedestrians in the Bellevue city core. None of the options are ideal. There need to be more stops downtown, and it needs to be below grade. However, the BTC tunnel station is the only rational option here.

  4. John Bailo says:

    This whole thing is a tragic, expensive and unnecessary mistake.

    We have BRT from Seattle to Bellevue. Fund it. Enhance it. Make it round the clock.

    • No we don’t, not when the express lanes are only in one direction while the other direction is almost completely jammed.

    • Would you run the 550 every two and a half minutes? That’s the capacity you would need to match two car trains at ten minute headways. And that wouldn’t address the BTC to OTC segment. Would you also add frequency to the 545 and RR-B?

      Of course, due to rail bias, you wouldn’t attract as many riders to the buses as you would to East Link.

      • No, it would be stupid to run the 550 every two minutes. But at least if if you did something that silly when you realized how dumb it really is you wouldn’t be stuck with such exorbitant suck cost that it’s impossible to walk away (i.e. North Sounder).

      • “No, it would be stupid to run the 550 every two minutes.”

        Huh? During the peaks we are already down to 5 or 6 minute headways and bumping up against negotiated tunnel capacity limits of 10 buses per hour. The cost for each 550 boarding is below $3 every day except Saturday ($3.11) and has been dropping, according to the 2013 SIP. The 550 appears to be able to induce demand any time you throw buses at it, except on mid-day trips when most trips have a dozen empty seats or so. (Or are you talking about average all day headway?)

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