by DAVID SEATER
On Tuesday Sound Transit hosted an open house to present the 60% designs for the Bellevue Transit Center and Hospital stations on East Link, incorporating feedback from the 30% design presentation last May and the cost-savings changes approved in April 2013. These stations are expected to open in 2023 and will generate 7,000 of East Link’s projected 50,000 daily riders in 2030. The presentation and meeting materials are available on Sound Transit’s website. As elsewhere along East Link, ST is still in the process of selecting final names for these stations.
Highlights of the design changes include:
- Canopies at the Bellevue Transit Center now cover the majority of the platforms.
- A new eastern entrance to the Bellevue Transit Center station due to the revised station location along NE 6th St.
- Hospital Station will have stops for RapidRide curbside along 8th in the existing locations and a drop-off loop for Access paratransit immediately adjacent to the station.
- A Sound Transit owned and maintained pedestrian path will connect Hospital station directly to 116th Ave NE.
- The tunnel underneath 110th Ave NE will be dug using the Sequential Excavation Method instead of the previously proposed cut-and-cover method.
Representatives from the City of Bellevue and the Bellevue Light Rail Permitting Citizen’s Advisory Committee were also present to introduce the Downtown Livability initiative, station area planning, the redesign of the Bellevue City Hall plaza, and a new downtown neighborhood association.
The Bellevue Transit Center station presented a unique set of challenges to the design team; they referred to it as the “tunnel, at-grade, elevated station” due to its profile as it transitions from a tunnel underneath 110th Ave NE to at-grade along NE 6th St before ending elevated above 112th Ave NE. The entrance at 110th NE (nearest the existing transit center) will have a large “signature” canopy covering the ticketing area, elevators, and stairs. There will also be a bike cage as well as racks available at this entrance.
At the platform level the canopies have been increased to cover over 90% of the platform area, with only two 20 foot gaps in coverage. These gaps are required by code in order to avoid the need for sprinkler systems and mechanical ventilation. Ridership projections had indicated that only 50% of the platform would need to be covered, but there was a significant amount of feedback requesting more weather protection than was present in the original design.
Sound Transit is also trying to maximize the potential for development of the construction staging area, currently an empty lot. The side of the station along this lot will be designed as a solid firewall, enabling any new structure there to be built directly against the station without any need for setbacks or open space.
The entrance from 112th NE is located underneath the east end of the elevated platforms and guideway. It will have stairs and elevators to connect to each platform along with a few bike lockers.
The Hospital station appears much simpler. It is a center platform station and will be elevated 22 feet where it crosses NE 8th St. A bold red color, shown in the renderings, will be used to help riders locate the ticket vending machines and entrances to the station. Adjacent to the station will be passenger pick up and drop off space, along with a loop for paratransit access. There will be a small amount of street parking available, although Sound Transit emphasized the city will provide this for the neighboring businesses and not for park-and-ride use.
To better connect the station to the hospitals along 116th NE, ST is including a pedestrian path past Whole Foods. The path will be owned and maintained by Sound Transit and will include lighting, security cameras, and emergency phones, but will not be covered. The BNSF corridor right-of-way will remain, pending future conversion to either rail or a trail.
Questions from the audience were largely focused on station access, which the City of Bellevue will address in their station area planning. In response to a comment that the existing designs didn’t show ages 8 – 80 bicycle access along relatively dangerous streets, staff stressed that the existing plans are still incomplete, and that bicycle and pedestrian access is “something we really do care about.”
Other commenters were concerned about impacts to traffic along NE 8th at the Hospital station, particularly due to backups caused by the in-lane RapidRide stop. Sound Transit said that they have been working with the City and Metro to plan that area. Metro requested that ST place the footings during construction to allow the placement of permanent RapidRide shelters, while the City transportation department has not identified any need for road widening or bus pullouts. The station support columns will be located far enough apart that NE 8th could be widened in the future should the City choose to do so.
The design of the stations is expected to be finalized this year with initial construction activity, mainly utility relocation, starting in 2015. Heavy civil construction will likely begin in 2016.