East Link Preferred Alignment (click for full size)

Here you have it, folks. With the small changes noted, this is what East Link will look like. Click for the big version.

Please Note: There is no money for section E. Money Bellevue might find for section C will not make section E affordable – that’s the city’s choice to fund their own tunnel, and has no bearing on Sound Transit’s budget. Also note that section D ends smack in the middle of Microsoft campus, at Overlake Transit Center.

Now we await the state’s dangerous game on I-90.

Update: Andrew Austin liveblogged the ST board meeting on the TCC blog. The state seems pretty obsessed with protecting the direct access from I-90 HOV to Bellevue Way. You’ve gotta love those “House Transportation Chair’s District” priorities.

59 Replies to “The East Link Preferred Alignment, Live And In Color”

  1. Looks good, thanks Ben.

    So it looks like a final EIS will appear next year plus a comment period and then can they start on B and C sections before any work is done on A?

    I hope Bellevue finds its funding for a tunnel but if things work well, maybe having NE 8th and 6th blocked by trains crossing it will take folks out of their vehicles.

    So I take it that all the alternates for B and C sections are off the table now and can’t be reconsidered? Not that I want them to be, but I just want to check that they can’t!


    1. I don’t think B or C would start before A, no. We’re waiting on money more than we are R8A, as long as R8A stays on track. And we’re not building a maintenance base on the eastside, anyway.

      Bellevue can fund the tunnel. I don’t think that’s much of an issue, honestly, they’ll get most of the way there with property gifts and they can probably use an LID or TBD for the rest.

      It’s not that the other options can’t be reconsidered, I think – it’s just that they aren’t going to be funded for further study. The end result is probably the same.

      1. Ben, I believe they continue to study all alternatives through the final EIS, but the preferred alternative goes through the most rigorous review. This decision, in other words, legally removes nothing from the table — but effectively options not chosen at this stage won’t move forward unless something dramatic happens.

      2. Hm. Maybe ‘study’ and ‘design’ are just separate, and further study work continues, but design work only goes forward for selected alternatives.

  2. Did they decide not to build a MX facility for East Link? or did they just not decide where it will go yet?

    1. We decided not to build one when it wasn’t in the ST2 package. :)

      We just won’t need it until well after ST3 is voted for.

  3. This is good news. Things are moving forward. The board made reasoned choices. I even understand the strange S curve preferred alignment through Marymoor Park. I really like that they are apparently trying to stop short of the Redmond Transit Center (which isn’t really a transit center). I especially like the option of a tunnel with the couplet as the base route. I also like the emphasis on future TOD in the Bel-Rd corridor. That will help ridership numbers in the long term.

    My greatest concern is shenanigans from the state house regarding the “value” of the I-90 reversible lanes. We should expect the anti-Seattle and anti-transit forces to try and force delays and higher costs by promoting a politically motivated uber value for the lanes. That will force delays and cost overruns, and then they can point the finger at wasteful tax happy Seattle and ST.

    1. I expect those shenanigans, and they will be met with detailed reporting, public disclosure requests, and perhaps even legal action. It’ll be fun for us, and extremely stressful for legislators who want to be re-elected! I welcome their masochism. :)

      1. I love it!

        The shenanigans are coming for sure. I just hope they don’t expect the center lanes on I-90 to cost more than what the state paid for them.

    2. Those lanes aren’t that helpful anyway. Look at the closure of the express lanes: nothing bad has happened. It’s like back when they closed half of NB I-5. Nothing happened. Everyone learned to change, and so should everyone else.

      1. In fact, since that road has now about a 55/45 split (toward the city/away from the city) the extra HOV lane is actually a huge increase in capacity in the ever more common “reverse” commute toward the Eastside.

      2. To be fair, there *has* been worse traffic on I-90. The first few days, anyway. It’s largely cleared up now.

  4. “The state seems pretty obsessed with protecting the direct access from I-90 HOV to Bellevue Way.” Haven’t read the post in question but I had a feeling when I saw the new WB I-90 HOV has a direct access ramp to 80th Ave SE on Mercer Island like the express lanes do now.

    1. That’s right. The lane helps transit, but eventually it’ll be a HOT lane for rich people. You can see where the state’s priorities are.

  5. Is it possible that the reason why E2 was selected for the Redmond alignment is because they want to keep their options open for further extensions of the line toward Kirkland?

    1. Nah, that line won’t ever go to Kirkland. It’s just a much easier alignment, I think – the other options would have to cruise over/next to a lot of apartments and condos.

      1. Well it keeps open the possibility of an extension up the Sammamish valley along the BNSF ROW. If I had to guess I’d say it would more likely follow the ROW to Woodinville rather than head along 124th to Totem Lake or Kirkland.

        But any sort of extension is a long way off.

      2. Yeah, I agree, heading to Woodinville would make the most sense in the long run. ST4. :)

      3. Woodinville is full of farms and extremely low-density industrial. I don’t think that’s a high-ridership location. Maybe in 30 years it’ll densify, but I’m skeptical.

      4. Full of farms??? When was the last time you were in Woodinville? There are zero farms left anywhere close to Woodinville. A couple of commercial nurseries for landscaping (green belted land in the valley where development rights were sold) and the South 47 Farm which is a glorified pea patch between Redmond and Woodinville. Maybe you’re thinking of “The Farm” on Hollywood Hill that was a chicken ranch 50 years ago and is now a crop of multi million dollar homes. You have to go out to Duvall before you’ll find any farms.

        You’re right that it’s low density and will stay one acre minimums (mostly built out and there are no sewers except in the downtown commercial district (which does have a rapidly growing amount of high density housing). It is however a logical intercept point for traffic coming in from the east (Wdnvl/Duval), the north (hwy 522) and south Snohomish county (hwy 9) as well as the north Lake Washington and I-405/Lynwood crowd.

      5. Hey dude, come on. I’ve live in Capitol Hill, the U-District, San Francisco and Tokyo. A commercial nursery in Woodinville as close as I’ve lived to a farm.

      6. Woodinville does make some sense for an extension of East Link.
        First it would be relatively cheap because of the BNSF ROW.
        Second it could connect the Willows industrial area, the industrial area between the wineries and Woodinville as well as the wineries themselves, perhaps even the industrial area North of Downtown Woodinville. While a lot of the area around Woodinville is low-density there are areas of higher-density development in Woodinville itself and to the North, West, and East.
        Finally as Bernie points out it is at the convergence of SR 522, SR 9, SR 202, and Woodinville-Duvall road. NE 195th and SR 522 might be a good location for a large P&R.

        I don’t know if anyone has been out in that area during peak commute periods but both SR 202 and Avondale road are jam packed with traffic heading toward Redmond in the AM. SR 522 is backed up from 405 to SR 9. Both the ST 522 and MT 372 are full during peak periods (though to be fair much of the ridership is from Bothell and Kenmore). East Link is only going to make the situation on SR 202 and Avondale Rd. worse once segment E is finished.

      7. If Link ever gets to Kirkland (I wish it would, because I LOVE kirkland, but whatever) it’ll have to be north from Bellevue. Maybe in ST5 :(

      8. It would be silly to take Link from Kirkland to downtown Seattle via 1-90. The 255 would get you there faster, even during rush hour.

      9. I think a Kirkland spur from Bellevue would likely be part of ST 3 as would an Issaquah spur. Even if Kirkland to Seattle doesn’t make sense a Kirkland spur would serve Eastside riders heading to Bellevue, Overlake, and Eastgate. It would also be a start on a line along the length of 405.

  6. What’s up with the dipping up and down from Ashwood onward? It goes at grade and then tunnels, surfaces and then tunnels again, over and over… why?

    1. It has more to do with there being hills/creeks in the way; the Link rails themselves should be relatively flat. The section along 520 goes from surface to retained cut and back—this is basically the same as the Link tracks along I-5 in Tukwila, where they had to dig into the hillside a bit.

    2. The train goes in a straight line, relatively level. The land under it isn’t very even. :)

      1. So is some of the retained cut actually tunnel, or just a trench/Tukwila-tracks-like cut into the hillside?

      2. Retained cut is separate from cut and cover – it’s trench. But it looks like the only trench is at Overlake, so far. I don’t see trenches in bel-red.

    1. Technically that’s still UW—the symbol is just about at the E-1 parking lot. Maybe they wanted to give UW a better view of the water. ;)

    2. I am happy that included Yesler Creek on the map ( it runs under Children’s ) but it also runs behind my house ;-)

      1. Oh, is that the creek I see from the Burke-Gilman a bit north of there? Or is that something else?

  7. The map shows just how far apart the husky stadium and Capitol Hill stations are from eachother.

  8. Please do educate me if I’m wrong but . . . isn’t the decision to make these lines at-grade going to make them susceptible to the whims of traffic just like anything else on the road? I might just be having trouble visualizing this because I don’t know Eastside street layouts at all.

    But I had thought that part of the point of a system like Link was to have some sort of grade-separated transit . . .

    1. Grade-Separation and dedicated right-of-way are different things, though often related.

      Link through the Rainier Valley has at grade-crossings, but would rarely ever be at the whim of traffic, since it has its own signal and its own right-of-way. Certainly a system that is 100% dedicated right-of-way is never at the whim of traffic, but not all of those systems are grade-separated.

      As for that map, all though it’s at grade from Downtown Seattle to South Bellevue, it’ll nearly entirely dedicated right-of-way, with only a short on-ramp shared with buses. The other at-grade sections would look like the Rainier Valley and not like the SLU streetcar or Portland’s Max in downtown. Link won’t be running in traffic with cars, though it will have to deal with traffic intersections.

      1. Thanks for the clarification. They should really learn to draw this stuff on Google Maps. ;)

      2. They have, actually. There’s a page here:

        I actually did all this on Google Maps a couple of years ago, for the ST2 component of Roads and Transit. Google Maps just isn’t a good way to portray information at more than one scale at a time. Hand-designed maps are much better. The google API just doesn’t have enough flexibility to make things really slick, and when you pile on a lot, it gets very slow.

      3. Oh, I know, I’ve done my battles with the Google API for my cycling Capstone in the Informatics program. That said, I’m glad they do both, since the purposes are different.

      4. Also, the at-grade section along the east side of Bellevue Way will essentially be a dedicated right-of-way. Due to Mercer Slough there are only a couple traffic crossings there, none to actual streets, so Link should be able to go pretty fast.

    2. At-grade isn’t the same thing as in-traffic. Link will have it’s own ROW with signal priority, so congestion isn’t not a problem at all. It does slow it down some because it will have to go slower at street crossings, but this will be fairly consistent throughout the day.

  9. why do you insist that bellevue tunnel money doesn’t affect anything else? apparently st board thinks it does. it seems obvious that its one big pool of money. and pulling out some for the tunnel means less for E.

    Several Sound Transit board members Thursday worried that the pledge to help find additional money could lead to the tunnel getting federal funds that could otherwise go towards extending light rail elsewhere in the region.

    1. Joni Earl immediately shut them down, saying that Sound Transit is not going for federal money for the tunnel. That’s what Paterson was concerned about.

      I insist because Joni Earl has an excellent track record of being right. :)

  10. Why is there a station at 130th? Why not one that’s more centered in between 124th and Overlake Village Station?

    1. Because 130th is a freeway exit. A lot of this P&R traffic is going to be getting on buses to cross 520. It’s way fast to the UW and probably faster to most of downtown. Faster to bus and make a connection to Northgate and Lake City even after North Link is built.

      1. Oh, I’m sorry, I meant on Eastlink. Why are they putting a station at 130th in D2A of the Eastlink line, when they are already putting on at 124th? There’s nothing really around 130th except some auto body shops. At 140th there’s apartments and a shopping center.

      2. I believe 130th is a ‘node’ in the Bel Red plan that they are upzoning, and want it centered around a light rail stop.

      3. The line will be elevated by the time it reaches 140th and starting it’s steep climb up to 148th (look at the height of 520 where it crosses 140th). If you ride the 520 bike trail you’ll notice that it’s a pretty significant climb; especially since Link has to cross 148th elevated. Plus 140th north of 405 and south of Bel-Red is residential and a P&R near here would result in a lot of cut through traffic. 140th, believe it or not is designated as a bike route. It’s already a by pass for evening southbound traffic to I90.

    2. Sam, I was wondering the same thing myself, and then I looked back at Bellevue’s plans for TOD in the corridor, and that’s where they want their development node. I think they don’t see much TOD between there and Sears.

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