There’s been a fair amount of overheated rhetoric in the comment threads in response to one Bellevue City Councilmember proposing a bad alignment through his city. Indeed, there’s reason to believe that a majority of Councilmembers agree with him, at least nominally. And Tukwila’s 1999 lawsuit (H/T: Jim Cusick) provides a reason to believe that a city can force Sound Transit to ditch their preferred alignment.
Some are perceiving this as “Bellevue” rejecting East Link, or go so far as to question the point of the whole East Link project. I think either position is way off base.
First of all, there’s no reason to think a low-information election based on any number of local issues is a better signal than Bellevue’s vote for Prop. 1 in 2008. As interested outsiders, the useful contribution is to help inform and mobilize Bellevue voters, not dismiss them.
Secondly, a BNSF/I-405 alignment is not the end of the world. We don’t have the specifics and the studies to see if the Wallace plan would reduce ridership so much that it imperils federal funding, in which case ST has a really strong case to win in the court of public opinion. Otherwise, the coming Bellevue fight is just the Tukwila fight writ large. The final outcome in Tukwila is a terrible one for those that live or do business there, but for the rest of us it just means we go around the heart of Tukwila at 55 mph rather than through it at 35mph on our way to the Airport.
All transportation projects have to, at some point, make some routing compromises to get built. Suburban freeway alignments are (unfortunately) standard practice in most American rail systems. Indeed, for those with no stake in Bellevue, the Wallace plan might even speed up trips to Redmond and free up enough cash to get to Redmond Town Center.
As people interested in building a good regional system, we should help our neighbors in Bellevue who are fighting to make sure that their City gets maximum benefit from such a large investment. But it does no one any good to spite the whole city and give up on a project that would still be a huge leap forward in regional mobility.
Now, if you are a Bellevue resident, part of your city council is scheming to make sure that East Link serves as few homes and jobs as possible in Bellevue. That would be something to get excited about.