Sound Transit has released its draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for East Link, here’s an executive summary (9.6 MB pdf). The study compares the impacts, costs and benefits of different routings, as well as the impacts, costs and benefits of elevated, at-grade and underground rights of way. There’s also an interactive map on the Sound Transit site, where you can see the different alignments. Worth checking out, I promise.

From the press release:

The Sound Transit Board is expected to identify a preferred alternative next spring and staff would then complete the final environmental impact statement to be published in 2010. A final decision on the project would be made in 2010 after the Final EIS is published.

Public comment on the current alternatives will play an important factor in the Board’s identification of a preferred alternative…

The public comment period runs from Dec. 12 – Feb. 25, 2009.

My thoughts, as well as times and locations of public meetings below the fold.

Personally, I think the plan is very Bellevue-centric. Depending on the routings chosen, Bellevue will get somewhere between four and seven stations, and the rest of the eastside only three, one in Mercer Island and two in Redmond. Even that bit of Redmond is a pennisula surrounded by Bellevue. Certainly, Bellevue is where the Eastside plans to put most of its development in the future, and more stations is generally better than fewer stations, as long as the overall travel time through the segment doesn’t suffer and the ridership is there. Furthermore, I don’t see how you can connect the other Eastside suburbs without going through Bellevue. Still, it does seem to be a lot of stations in Bellevue. 

Generally, the whole project is very exciting, though I do see one problem. From what I understand, there isn’t money in ST2 for a tunnel through Downtown Bellevue, so Bellevue itself would have to come up with the money to put that alignment underground.  I see it is that a tunnel costs somewhere between $600 million to $1 billion more than the most expensive elevated alignment. That is a lot of money for Bellevue to try to raise. The only positive aspect of having elevated tracking through that area is the Kemper Freeman would be forced to look at it.

The times and places for the public comment meetings.
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009
Open House 4-7 p.m.
Public Hearing starts at 5 p.m.
Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center
16600 NE 80th Street, Redmond, WA

Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009
Open House 4-7 p.m.
Public Hearing starts at 5 p.m.
Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
2401 S Irving St, Seattle, WA

Mercer Island
Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009
Open House 4-7 p.m.
Public Hearing starts at 5 p.m.
Community Center at Mercer View
8236 SE 24th Street, Mercer Island, WA

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009
Open House: 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Public Hearing starts at: 6:00 p.m.
Bellevue High School
10416 Wolverine Way, Bellevue, WA

Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009
Open House: 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Public Hearing starts at: 4:30 p.m.
Bellevue City Hall
450 110th Ave. NE, Bellevue, WA

36 Replies to “East Link Thoughts”

  1. I agree that the plan may be Bellevue-centric, but it should be, as Bellevue is where most of the people and jobs are.

    Don’t agree that Kemper will be forced to look at anything. He is his own person and only plays politics when it is self fulfilling.

    If it does call for a tunnel and the city is expected to pay for it, we (residents and property owners) need to respond to make our feelings known.

  2. As a Bellevue resident:

    I’d gladly support a tax increase to pay for it

    (disclaimer: As a Microsoft employee, yes I use my badge all the time and refuse to drive)

  3. tbere are almost as many jobs in redmond as bellevue, and redmond, kirkland and sammamish have more people than bellevue does.

    so “most” aint true!

    1. Given East Link is using the I-90 bridge there really isn’t a good way to get to Redmond, Kirkland, or Sammamish without passing through a fair bit of Bellevue first. I suppose East Link could go directly to Sammamish via Eastgate and Issaquah but bypassing downtown Bellevue and Microsoft for the first phase seems kind of stupid.

      If you are going to the Overlake Transit Center from I-90 via Downtown Bellevue serving the South Bellevue P&R, Overlake Hospital, and the planned development in the Bel-Red corridor makes a certain amount of sense.

      1. And also, I think light rail to Sammamish is quite far out. They hardly even have any buses there. Maybe run some DMUs from an Issaquah Link station to the Redmond Link stations via Sammamish in a couple decades

  4. You have to remember that Bellevue is pretty big, and we’re building East Link through it diagonally. Plus most of Bellevue is still suburban single-family-housing, so you need both stops in downtown and at park-and-rides. The rest of Redmond will get its other 2-3 stations in the next round of expansion, hopefully.

  5. I think the 112th/Main/108th combination of options elevated on 112th with a tunnel through downtown Bellevue is the ideal route (B2E-C3T). While it would be nice to stop in Old Bellevue, full grade-separation south of downtown and a station at SE 8th is superior. If the Old Bellevue/Bellevue Way Tunnel alternative (CT1) could be elevated until it dropped into a tunnel that would be a good option, but it’s not currently an option. Either hospital stop is fine with me.

    If the money’s not there for any tunneling, the couplet alternative seems like it would move quickly through downtown. The problem with the option for elevated-only all the way along 112th is that it skirts the edge of downtown rather than going through its heart.

    The BNSF route would be a huge mistake.

    For the Overlake section, any route option except the 520 option is fine. There needs to be at least one station between downtown and Overlake Village–the 130th station with parking is the better of the two if only one station is added.

    Also, I hope we can find a way to hurry up the Redmond extension. I was always in favor of an ST3 vote in 2010, but it looks like the political establishment wants to wait longer.

    1. I agree, the B2E/C3T looks the best. Maybe the Old Bellevue option would be a little better, but it’s so much more expensive, I don’t think we could justify it. But if the tunnel can get some bailout dollars and they levy a little tax on downtown Bellevue businesses and residents (who, after looking at that rendering of what elevated would look like, will probably do anything to stop that option), they could easily have a tunnel.

      1. B2E/C3T is only $450 million more than B3/C4A or B3/C8E. It also happens to have the best ridership numbers of any option.

      2. You’re comparing the cheapest point of the B2E/C3T to the most expensive point for B3/C4A.

        If it’s going to be the cheapest for b2e/c3t, I would guess for the same reasons* it would be the cheapest for b3/c4a, which means that the difference is more like $540 million, and if it’s the most expensive for B3/C4A, I think for the same reasons* it would be a difference of $590 million.

        *whether those are low construction materials price, lower land values, etc.

      3. I like the old bellevue one the best, though the expense will probably rule it out.

        The station is very close to downtown park, which is the best park in bellevue imo and it’s also close to gilbert’s, which has the best sandwiches on the east side.

  6. It’s not true that Redmond will receive only 2 to 3 stations. It will get up to 5 stations: Overlake Village, Overlake Transit Center, SE Redmond, Redmond Town Center and Redmond Transit Center.

  7. In fact the Overlake Village and Overlake Transit Center stations are critical to Redmond’s Overlake Neighborhood Plan “action alternative”, which adds 5,000 multi-family housing units around Overlake Village Station and millions of additional commercial space in the neighborhood.

  8. I would go A1, B2A or B2E, C4A, D2A, and E2 plus ESR

    Move the hospital stop in C4 to a multimodal stop where Eastlink crosses the ESR, and drop the 124th Station which is now probably to close to the hospital station

    Buildout the ESR Bellevue-Woodinville segment immediatly, and build Eastlink out from the ESR twords DT bellevue and Redmond providing single transfer service from ESR to DT Bellevue and MS main Campus. Continue building Eastlink from Bellevue towards Mercer Island, and from Seattle towards Mercer Island and meet somewhere in the middle.

    Combine the ESR and Eastlink maintenance facilities for aditional savings (use the MF1 or MF2 location

    One change to the ESR, (provided the DMU’s can handle the increased grade), move the connection between the mainline and the Redmnd spur to some point between NE 124th and NE 145th eliminating one major crossing in Woodinville, and combining the 2 South Woodinville stations into one. Aditionally look at moving the North Woodinville station north to Brightwatter, this will allow for easier collection of drivers from 522 and 9, alternatly add the East facing on/off ramps to 522 at NE 195th

    Lor Scara

    1. Spot on. I too had looked at the aerial views and if practical, I don’t know much about the finished operation of the Brightwater facility, that would be a great P&R transit hub. There are numerous places in Woodinville that are currently light industrial along the BNSF ROW and perfect for P&R stations. Ten or twenty years from now it will be like trying to find land at Overlake.

      The MF options proposed for East Link near the 405 520 interchange are a splendid idea. Not only do they provide a natural interchange with the BNSF route which would be useful in construction of light rail it’s also in the same area as the current Eastside Base. On top of that connecting the segment of East Link from here to the Woodinville Redmond spur would free up the Totem Lake to Woodinville trackage for conversion to trail use. This extends the existing 520 bike trail and ties it back in with the Sammamish River trail between Bothell and Woodinville. That section of rail is problematic because of the number of at grade crossings which have proved to be a safety issue and adversly impact traffic. Although retaining a spur as far north as Par Mac might make sense.

      Rail up the east side of Lake Sammamish will never happen. It took years of court battles just to get it changed to a bike trail. Rail there is about as likely as using the Burke Gilman from Bothell to the UW, never happen. And that’s exactly where we’ll be 10 years down the road with ESR if the emphasis now is tearing it up rather than continuing it’s use as a rail corridor.

  9. Actually Bellevue gets between 4 and 6 stations depending on the alignments chosen. The extra 2 are the 124th and 130th Ave stations in the Bel-Red corridor.

    In theory any of the stations are optional no matter what the alignment chosen. Though it would be stupid to bypass any except maybe the SE Bellevue station and/or one (probably 124th ave) of the Bel-Red stations. If segment E is built downtown Redmond gets 2 or 3 additional stations (for a total of 4 or 5 in Redmond).

    With the zoning changes and planned development around the Ashmont/Hospital station, Bel-Red industrial area, and Overlake Village there is a large area for vast amounts of TOD. The additional ridership from this potential TOD isn’t included in the draft EIS.

    To get a true picture of the costs for going through downtown Bellevue (segment C) the costs of connecting to the South Bellevue alternatives (segment B) have to be factored in (see table 2-6 p. 2-39). The lowest cost tunnel alignment is the C3T 108th NE tunnel connecting from the B2E 112th NE elevated at $1.67 billion. The most expensive above-ground options are the C4A couplet or the C8E 110th NE elevated connecting from the B3 112th bypass at $1.22 billion, a difference of $450 million from the B2E/C3T combination. The cheapest combination is the C7E 112th NE elevated connecting from the B2A 112th NE at-grade at $1.03 billion, a difference of $664 million from the B2E/C3T combination.

    The cost differences get particularly interesting when combined with the ridership estimates (table 6-1 p. 6-2). Alternative C3T, 108th NE tunnel has 8,000 2030 segment daily boardings and 48,000 total East Link riders. Alternative C4A, couplet has 6,500 2030 segment daily boardings and 44,000 total East Link riders. Alternative C7E, 112th NE elevated has 5,500 2030 segment daily boardings and 44,000 total East Link riders. Alternative C8E, 110th NE elevated has 6,500 2030 segment daily boardings and 45,500 total East Link riders. This means the C3T alternative has a gain of 2,500 segment daily boardings and 4,000 total East Link riders for an additional $664 million over the lowest-cost above-ground alternative and a gain of 1,500 segment daily boardings and 2,500 to 4,000 total East Link riders for an additional $450 million over the highest-cost above-ground alternatives.

    1. Like I said above, it makes no sense to compare the cheapest for one, with the most expensive for another.

      Whatever is going to make one cheap, is likely going to make the other cheap, too. Whether it’s construction costs, land costs, labor costs, materials costs, etc.

      Your estimates are very misleading!

      1. Max, those numbers are from table 2-6 p. 2-39 of the draft EIS. I’m using those numbers for the differences in cost between the various combinations of segment B and segment C alignments.

        I believe the cost ranges given for different potential alignments within a given segment only cover the variable cost of connecting to other segments or adding or dropping optional stations. I don’t believe these ranges cover other potential cost variables such as labor or materials.

  10. If Kemper Freeman would be forced to look at elevated trackway, perhaps he could lead political action to fund a tunnel.

    1. That won’t happen; his offices are at Bellevue Way and NE 8th, a couple blocks west of any of the proposed options.

      1. Oh, never mind then. I guess I shouldn’t have campaigned for Mass Transit Now!; Nothing that even connects indirectly with ST2’s expansions is less than three blocks from my house.

  11. Another thing I’m curious about is the configuration of the lines. I heard someone a little while ago saying it would be Lynnwood-Overlake and Northgate-Highline, but I think it would make sense the other way around (Northgate-Overlake and Lynnwood-Highline). And I wonder if we’ll still call the lines East Link and Central Link or if they’ll rebrand them as colors.

    1. According to the <a href=” will be Lynnwood-Overlake and Northgate-272nd, BUT Lynnwood-272nd (instead of Northgate-272nd) during peak hours. Each line will run every 7 minutes peak, 10 minutes off-peak.

  12. The city center Redmond options are the exact same ones they presented to us almost two years ago, in the last ST workshop I went to…

    …I will have to block out some time on the 21st; thanks for posting the info.

  13. I like the Old Bellevue alignment, but like others said above, the section in South Bellevue isn’t grade-separated, which we’d really need to avoid. How about the next tunnel option (under 108th) but with a station at Main and 108th?? (One block east of the other proposed old bellevue station).

    I think that should be considered.

  14. Go with the couplet now. If, in 20 years, Bellevue wants to pony up the money to put the line underground, then great. But building elevated now means elevated always. I’d rather see more track-mileage built than an extremely elaborate but short line.

    1. The couplet isn’t particularly cheap compared to the C3T tunnel especially when the differences in travel time and ridership are factored in.

      C3T gains 3 minutes, 1,500 segment boardings and 4,000 system riders over C4A for a cost difference of $510 million when both connect from B2E.

      If you consider $1,220 million, the cost of the most expensive non-tunnel segment B and C combination such as B3/C8E, to be the celling on what Sound Transit is willing to spend for those segments, then only $450 million has to be found to fund the tunnel. I’d hazard a guess some sort of TIF scheme could probably cover the difference.

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