tukwila
Link through Tukwila

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.

112 Replies to “Editorial: Bad Alignments are not Armageddon”

    1. This question is very similar to stop density, in the balance between service and cost per multi-million dollar mile.

      Knowing Bellevue fairly well I was originally surprised that the greater ST crew (which includes the remnants of Preston Gates Ellis, the old boy cap-projects firm and MS’s counsel[papa Bill was the divorce Lawyer]) was able to garner support on the Eastside. If I am reading correctly that support has been put to a clear vote and has lost.

      Bellevue Tunnel funding is still on the table, I’ll leave the possible paths and effects on that aspect for you to discern. It is as likely that Bellevue will pay the extra tunnel cost as Seattle will NOT try to weasel out of Deep Bore overruns.

      This is a clear case of diminishing returns, and you can bet the victors here are going to keep going elsewhere on the Eastside. Like in Burien it is also a clear case of bad planning practice. It may even be totally undefensible.

      The level of risk to East Link is not clear, nor the range of possible solutions. When planners put bully politics into their work though you can certainly expect the same in return.

  1. I once lived in Vallejo, California. Walk down the totally run down city center and you can imagine it 50 years ago, bustling with people and growing rapidly. It was built up in a location that made sense at the time – down near the water. Now drive to the freeway and see where people currently spend their time and money – malls and big box stores lining the freeway. As cars became the way to get around, the old downtown lost its business.

    I wonder if in 50 years Bellevue will look something like the opposite of this. Stop by the dense, lively downtown surrounding the light rail station. Or you can visit the large, run down car-centric and unwalkable old city.

    Whatever alignment happens could have very large impacts in the long-term feel of Bellevue, just as it will have a large impact in the short term on how well light rail is used.

  2. if the East Link is forced onto the BNSF ROW … does that mean that they will be able to extend service down the BNSF ROW to Renton? and North to wherever?

    I’d say in the long run that would be a plus … although I still think it would be a shame not to run the line as planned on Bellevue Way S.

    1. I think what we all want in the end is for an alignment to go through Downtown and the preservation of the BNSF corridor for future spurs. The former should most definitely be a prerequisite of the latter.

    2. There’s not really any difference in “ability” there between any of the options. You’re still crossing the BNSF right of way both south and north of downtown.

  3. Bellevue would be stupid to do this. If East Link isn’t convenient to downtown, it will just be a bypass from Redmond to Seattle. It would encourage people in those places to spend time and money outside Bellevue. I know that if East Link were open tomorrow I’d use it to go to Bellevue occasionally, but only if there was a stop on the west side of 405. I’m not going to cross a freeway to shop or eat in Bellevue when I can just go into a real city instead. Once you factor in walking time and the increased speed of the BNSF/405 alignment to Seattle, it wouldn’t even take significantly longer to get to Seattle instead. And sure, you can hope that TOD will appear no matter where the alignment is, but who really wants to site (or patronize) dense developments next to a freeway sound wall?

    1. Link were open tomorrow I’d use it to go to Bellevue occasionally, but only if there was a stop on the west side of 405.

      There would be! Again people seem to think B7 pushed the alignment to the other side of 405. It doesn’t! As far a TOD the area around the TC is built out already. That’s sort of the point of putting the station there. The only major development left in DT Bellevue is the old Safeway site owned by Kemper Freeman and the PACCAR property. These are both about as far from the TC as you can get.

      1. No the thing is that some of the councilmembers are advocating for having Link stay on the BNSF ROW all the way until they turn towards Bel-Red because they say that a tunnel would be economically infeasible and at-grade would be unacceptable… I say there’s more than enough money in Bellevue to pay for a tunnel, especially that way shorter one that they proposed a couple months ago.

      2. You’re wrong. Nobody has proposed staying on the BNSF ROW and building a bridge to replace the Wilburton Tunnel. That just shows a complete lack of understanding or a deliberate attempt to confuse the facts. No other community has be asked to foot the entire bill of building a tunnel. They aren’t even asked to contribute to the cost of underground stations. The numbers being tossed around are $400-500 Million. That’s equal to the City’s entire estimated cost for the Bel-Red redevelopment plans (largely driven by impact fees on developers). It’s three times the City’s entire general fund for capital improvements. Even spread out over 20 years it would require roughly an increase in CIP revenue of 20%. Bellevue like all local government is in a position of cutting back. There’s no way the City is going to be able hand over this sort of money.

      3. Bernie, what on earth does Bellevue stand to gain by going with B7 over B3 modified? You’ve been considerably defensive of the former.

    2. The Vision Line provides for a large station at 6th and 112th in downtown Bellevue with covered people movers to the transit station. If that isn’t convenient I don’t know what is.

      1. Did you just say “covered people movers”? The “Vision Line”? The time to bring this up was a year ago (or more) during all those East Link alignment meetings, not after alignment selection.

  4. the Wallace plan might even speed up trips to Redmond and free up enough cash to get to Redmond Town Center.

    If so that indeed would be huge. Bellevue would then see as many commuters using link from the east as they would from the west. Link ridership to Seattle would also get a boost. Nothing about building the line along 114th precludes building a tunnel in the future if funding is ever identified. Underground stations could even be designed into new buildings with perhaps a small scale DBTT to “pave” the way. Consider also that this alignment could shave a year or two off of the completion date which in it’s self would likely save even more money.

    1. Bellevue would see fewer commuters using Link from the east if you’re thinking more than five years ahead.

      1. I don’t know how you’d support that notion. I tried to find the growth targets from the PSRC but all I could come up with was a by County count. I did stumble across this statement from a Doug McDonald piece on Crosscut:

        Puget Sound Regional Council projections now show that by 2030, only 5 percent of journey-to-work trips to Bellevue will come from the west across the I-90 corridor from Seattle and Mercer Island.

        Now this is second hand information and it appears that all reference to the 2030 plan has been replaced on the PSRC website with Vision 2040. But if only 5% are coming to Bellevue from the west and fewer still from the east you really have to wonder why Bellevue should invest upwards of a half a billion dollars in a tunnel for a system that’s primarily about facilitating trips into Seattle.

  5. I’m not hugely worried. I think the momentum at city hall and Sound Transit is behind the modified B3 alignment and this new C9T tunnel. There are a few key agreements that are to be reached between ST and the City of Bellevue by the end of the year, before the new council members take office.

    The city council and the mayor have made it clear that they don’t support B7, and it’s not going forward in the FEIS, so I don’t see how new council members could change that. I’m sure the vocal minority and their reps who support B7 will huff and puff, but I don’t think they’ll be able to blow the house down.

    The real question is what will happen downtown. The city wants a tunnel and has stated that they are identifying funding sources to pay the extra cost. If the cost of C9T is reasonable I’m sure that it will end up going forward because it best meets the needs of the city and Sound Transit. I’m sure there were some behind the scenes negotiations before the Sound Transit board directed their staff to come up with C9T.

    For anyone interested there will be an update on East Link at this Thursday’s Sound Transit board meeting.

    1. ST rejected the most crucial part of B3 Modified which is the jog east on SE 8th to Wilburton and the approach to Main on 114th. Without that the existing council was unanimous in their support shifting to B7. The ST board continues to push the 112th approach to connect with at surface rail through downtown. Kevin Wallace is absolutely correct in saying that is unacceptable. If the ST board has something up their sleeve to fund the C9T alternative they sure didn’t let on in their last presentation to the Bellevue City Council where Mayor Degginger again reiterated his frustration in not being able to get a number for what a tunnel (any tunnel) would cost and how much the City was expected to come up with.

      1. Bernie, the City Council accepted the Sound Transit board’s plan to study the modified alignment, but B7 wasn’t moved forward. It’s not coming back – it makes the whole thing less cost effective.

      2. “ST rejected the most crucial part of B3 Modified which is the jog east on SE 8th to Wilburton and the approach to Main on 114th”

        Not true. At the October 12th city council meeting ST stated the the “jog” alignment would be included in the FEIS along with the B3 modified alignment that the city and ST are developing. It was also stated that a supplemental EIS will be coming out next quarter with the modified B3 and C9T before the final EIS is done. They also said that cost estimates for the C9T tunnel would be available near the end of November.

      3. The jog alignment in the B3 modified and the B7 alignment both have to be carried forward into the FEIS by law. That doesn’t mean the ST board has any interest in supporting either one. The ST preferred alignment specifically leaves it out and the only support ST employees gave for the modified alignment in their presentation to the Bellevue City Council was for the side running configuration on Bellevue Way. The P&R over SE 8th with dedicated freeway ramps will be included in the FEIS too but everyone agrees that’s dead.

      4. The Sound Transit Board ordered staff to do a little bit more PE work on B3 modified with the jog and C9T. I’d say B3 with and without the jog is still in the mix and C9T seems to have everyone rather excited as it may pencil out to something both ST and Bellevue can afford.

  6. I’ve heard tons of various rumors and heresay about why the Tukwila routing is the way it is, but what is the real history?

    1. As you can see from the document linked to in the post, Tukwila wanted the line to run to Southcenter Mall. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, a Sound Transit board member, said he would not support a light rail line that allowed riders to shop in Tukwila (and thus take money out of Seattle), so the Board would not support a routing to the mall.

      It would appear from the linked document, Tukwila tried to force the board to adopt the routing to the mall by blocking the line up 99. Tukwila successfully blocked the line up 99, but the board said “screw you” and routed it close enough to see the mall but too far away to have a stop there.

      1. Are you kidding? Maybe because it would have added money we don’t have to add time to the airport trip by going out of the way? There wasn’t any right of way available there, and there would have been no way in hell you could drop to station level and then climb the hill again.

      2. Ben,
        IIRC the option to swing through Southcenter on the way to Seatac was technically feasible just not terribly cost effective given the added cost and travel time for no real gain in ridership. I also suspect a Southcenter routing would have resulted in a lower rating from the FTA.

      3. Ben, one could tunnel underneath the city of Sea Tac to the airport, which is a way, in a way, in hell, since we all know that hell is underground. I like the current, more heavenly alignment in the sky.

      4. Matt, agreed.

        Chris, the added cost would have busted the budget. The money simply wasn’t there – and if we had more money, it would have been better spent on Graham Street, S 133rd, or S 200th.

      5. Ben,
        I’m aware the budget didn’t allow for serving Southcenter. I was simply saying an alignment swinging through Southcenter on the way to Seatac would have been technically feasible. I also agree the money would have been better spent on deferred stations or extending further South.

      6. It’s close enough to see Mount Rainier, too, but a stop there would be pretty far out of the way.

      7. Wait, would it go there and then swing back to the airport? If a commute to the airport included a 3-hour scenic train ride through Mount Rainier National Park, I’d be all for that.

      8. Your projecting attitudes here that had no bearing on the eventual Tukwila alignment, and you’re wrong besides. Central Link was always gong to end at the Airport and according to all the analyses conducted for the NEPA process, the Pac Highway South alignments were the best from a transit standpoint (neighborhood service, ridership etc) and from a cost and engineering standpoint. Sure Tukwila wanted a Southcenter alignment, but it was both prohibitively expensive and very difficult from an engineering standpoint in view of the goal to reach the Airport. The I-5 alignment was a compromise to meet Tukwila’s objections to the Pac Highway alignments and still end at the Airport. Attributing that compromise alignment to the malice you describe is petty and revisionist.

  7. You know I’m half tempted to say that if the [deleted, ad-hominem] Wallace gets his way Bellevue doesn’t get a damn thing. Just keep the whole thing along BNSF, 405, and 520 with not a single station in the Bellevue city limits. For that matter let the whole damn East sub-area eat express buses until the city government comes to its senses.

    Ok maybe that is a bit too harsh, but frankly I think the combination of avoiding the S. Bellevue P&R and avoiding downtown means the chances of getting Federal funding become slim to none. I’d guess the ridership drop is probably in the range of 20k-25k boardings per day which makes it not really worth even building East link. Whee! Kemper wins!

    1. First off the East sub-area will be “eating express buses” for more than a decade no matter what. Not serving South Bellevue P&R is a big issue. But I think the smart fellows at ST could figure out a way to make an intermodal connection at I-90 and Bellevue Way work. A station sited between the proposed South Main and the Furniture Store Station would draw good ridership from both Wilburton P&R and the numerous hotels and office buildings adjacent to it. A downtown station a couple of blocks from the existing TC isn’t as convenient but it does offer the chance for much quicker transfers from buses on I-405. Its’ sucess would hinge on good Bellevue circulator transit but that’s needed even if the station were directly under the TC. Hospital Station at Overlake Medical would be unchanged. I’d agree the two stops in Muffler City could be dropped and the money used to extend the line past Overlake TC. A station in the area of the proposed MF on NE 24th could work nicely with a 520 alignment and a station north of the old Group Health building at the new 36th street overpass would be much better than Overlake Village (a proven loser). Ridership from Redmond (Marymoor and DT) would dwarf any expansion of the South Bellevue P&R.

    2. Chris,

      This is exactly the attitude I’m arguing against. A DT Bellevue stop, even on the freeway, will still have lots of ridership. Just not nearly as much as one by the transit center would.

      East Link would still be worthwhile.

      1. Sorry, just being pissed off. However I think a “Downtown” stop on the freeway or even worse off on the BNSF alignment when combined with B7 makes the whole project lose Federal funding due to the low ridership. As I said earlier I think we’d be looking at loosing anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the boardings depending on where exactly the “Downtown” stop was.

      2. A stop on the B7 BNSF ROW is a completely separate issue from the downtown Bellevue stop. The only stop on the B7 alignment was the Greenbaum funiture site. No one on the city council likes this location and I think all would agree to replacing it and the South Main Station with a single station somewhere in between where it avoids the negative impact on neighborhoods and parks and is closer to the demand. FWIW the ST preferred alternative actually does involve a stop on top of 405, the Ashwood Station. Although from their comments to the DIES the FHWA would never allow such a thing (think Convention Center over I-5).

      3. One problem with a station between SE 8th and South Main is I’m not sure if there is a good location in-between that doesn’t either require some expensive property acquisition or have a lot of wetland impacts. At least if you plan a large P&R facility rather than just a station. It also really isn’t a replacement for a S. Bellevue P&R stop at least for people coming from the South or East. In fact it becomes a replacement for the 112th & SE 6th/8th station in the B2A/E alignments.

      4. Wetlands impact isn’t an issue. Lots of tall hotels have been built there with larger parking garages than the propose S. Bellevue expansion. Wetlands mitigation is an issue with the S. Bellevue P&R expansion and the side running alignment. Wilburton doesn’t replace S. Bellevue in terms of people that it serves. It serves a different market to be sure but I believe a much more vibrant market throughout the day and evening. There’s also far more potential for future development. I’m met up with people at S. Bellevue P&R in the afternoon before the start of the commute. It’s a ghost town. How many cars are parked there after 8PM? Hotels on the other hand have people coming and going at all hours with conventions, awards dinners and of course guest coming and going to the airport. I still think intermodal transit connections could be made at the I-90/Bellevue Way interchange. Not as ideal as at a P&R but there would still be ridership. Really, how many people do you think 300 parking spaces adds to the overall system ridership?

      5. I would be okay with B7 if there were a way to make intermodal connections at I-90/Bellevue Way, but that’s never going to happen. Where would you put a Link station? Where would a bus transfer area fit? There’s no place to build anything near there since I-90 is so wide, and elevated on top of the entrance to the slough. South Bellevue P&R is the best point for intermodal transit connections in that area, regardless of whether it has paring spaces or not.

      6. I just don’t see anywhere a station could go between SE 8th and Main along the hotel row there without taking a building or two out. The block between SE 8th and SE 6th used to be mostly empty but I believe there was some recent construction such as a Residence Inn. Also that area is fairly marshy so there will almost certainly be wetland impacts if a 1000 space garage, bus transfer center and Link station were built there (not to mention I’m sure Surrey Downs would bitch about that as much as they’ve bitched about everything else).

  8. I appreciate the calm editorial, but I want to note that us outside of Bellevue do have a responsibility to see that its choices are best for the region and not just for those who want a speedier trip to Redmond. We have concentrated much of our development on the Eastside in downtown Bellevue and we need to serve it with alternative transportation options. I do think we should motivate the population of Bellevue and the representatives of the city to make sure we make the right investment and not just concede early on that defeat isn’t a big deal. It is a big deal, and should demand our focus and attention, even if it isn’t Armageddon.

    1. Of course, the incentive for Bellevue residents is that if Link goes through downtown, I’ll take that instead of driving by large sedan through their town when I go shopping there. That’s one less car on their streets, taking up their parking spaces, potentially dinging their nice Mercedes and BMWs when I park next to them, or they park next to me. That means easier shopping for them, and faster driving from their nice houses in Medina or the Downs.

      Sure, I can take my nice large sedan into Bellevue, but if they put this line through the middle of downtown, Holiday Shopping will be just a little less crowded. I’ll still spend my money there (heck, I’ll spend more! Think of what I’m saving on gas! That’s a whole Orange Julius!), and I’ll be less in your way, and less of a hassle.

      And I’m a well dressed, clean cut, upscale kinda guy, so I’ll even be easy on your precious eyes when I’m stepping off Link to spend money in your city. It’s win/win!

      Just don’t let me into the shoe section at Nordstroms, or your wife might be asking you why you don’t offer to buy her any pair of Menolos she wants, like I do when I’m there with my wife (at the risk of being pounced by a dozen other women. True story!).

    2. Yes, I concur with this. An early defeat wouldn’t necessarily mean an early victory – more of a pyrrhic defeat really.

  9. Martin — I’m a little surprised by your comments here. The calm tone is appreciated, but the Bellevue results are very bad news for transit advocates. A freeway alignment would function more like a commuter rail line. Transit-oriented development options would be severely curtailed. Maybe Redmond will get better service, but overall this is a setback to the larger goal of creating dense, transit-oriented communities.

    You argue that this was a “low-information election”. I don’t know what that means. But, Seattle elected Mike O’Brien and a whole slate of transit advocates. At best, Bellevue voters were apathetic about transit, but that isn’t exactly a very comforting thought.

    1. The phrase “low-information election” means there wasn’t much public involvement. Nobody knew who the candidates were or what they stood for, they basically seem to have voted on name recognition.

      1. True. Conrad Lee and Don Davidson won because they’re incumbents. Kevin Wallace and Jennifer Robertson won because both Bonincontri and Creighton were fill-ins, not to mention all of the winners are endorsed by the firefighters union.

      2. Patsy Bonincontri had the power of incumbency for almost two years. Mike Creighton was previously elected to the city council and served as mayor so both candidates benefited from name recognition of prior political office. In a down economy and certainly nationally the sentiment tends to be “throw the bum out”. Dr. Davidson received a mandate of support for the work he’s done. Conrad Lee won by a larger percentage this year than he did against the same opponent four years ago.

        Patsy Bonincontri seems to have a hard time articulating her position. There were good reasons for supporting the B3 modified alignment and if you’re going to vote against the overwhelming public sentiment leading up to a reelection campaign you’d better be able to explain yourself. Mike Creighton never really seemed to campaign. Maybe he didn’t realize how much the political landscape had changed since he was last elected. Maybe people remembered him from his school board days as the guy that closed their neighborhood school (he handled it well IMHO).

        I think you’re right about the “Fire Fighter Endorsed” sticker on the campaign signs carrying some weight. Not nearly enough to help Mike Creighton but very well could have closed the 4 point margin in the Wallace/Bonincontri race. I don’t know if East Link alignment figured into their endorsement but I’m pretty sure they don’t want trains running with traffic in DT Bellevue.

    2. I agree it’s a bad alignment. But some people are half-seriously suggesting that if 405/B7 is the choice we should scrap the whole thing.

      A Wallace-routed East Link is much better than nothing, and better any other potential transit project on the Eastside — except the ST preferred alignment.

      1. You know, I’d half seriously consider that position. This is an expensive project and avoiding downtown Bellevue would make it a far less valuable one. If you’re just looking for a way to connect Redmond and Seattle, I-90 makes no sense. Where do you imagine the ridership coming from? What major trips are not already better served by bus?

      2. It’s not like no one is going to get on and off in Downtown Bellevue. Just fewer than would otherwise be the case.

      3. Moving the station two blocks is hardly avoiding downtown Bellevue. Would you say Sounder should be scrapped because it avoids downtown Seattle? Likewise we should scrap the WSF, Coleman Dock doesn’t serve downtown and an express bus from Bremerton would take only 15 minutes longer and run right down 3rd avenue.

      4. I thought Wallace wants Link on the auto row side of 405? 114th would almost certainly require an elevated track which even right next to the highway wouldn’t be too popular.

      5. It’s an uphill two blocks (make that three blocks) to 108th NE. I’ve never walked it, but I’d bet it’s a steeper hill than from 106th NE or Bellevue Way. Well, I guess that same argument also would apply to Coleman Dock.

      6. The station with B7 would be behind the Whole Foods, essentially. If I’m understanding what you’re saying right.

      7. Ben, it’s easy to make this mistake, but I’m pretty sure it follows B7, but B7 then remains west of I-405 through downtown. So it wouldn’t be behind whole foods.

  10. Tukwila is a relatively low population and decentralized city. Downtown Bellevue is the top transit destination outside of Seattle. This dramatically reduces the potential ridership, and dramatically reduces the number of connecting buses as well. It is not a minor change, and it is to a very expensive project.

  11. Martin, you speak as though to be the voice of reason. It would probably have more meaning without the snarky sarcasm at the end of your “editorial”.

    The negative commentary being given in regard to the Wallace plan (referred to as The Vision Line) is astounding and very little of shows any knowledge of what is being proposed. Get educated.

    How many of you heavy handed Bellevue haters actually live in Bellevue? If you don’t live in Bellevue what makes you think you have the right to make decisions for Bellevue? Hmmmmmm, as though you are the last voice of reason.

    1. Those of us that don’t live in Bellevue understand what it’s all about. I don’t hate Bellevue, I actually travel to Bellevue and have business there. If East Link is useful for getting to downtown, I may use it, but if it isn’t then I’ll probably clog the downtown streets like everyone else and try to find parking. A side-running Bellevue Way/112th SE allignment will be very unobtrusive and won’t effect your neighborhood much at all. It’s all about what makes sense.

      On the other hand, the alternative alignement will probably be faster running, so I could be on my way quicker from Redmond to Seattle.

      1. A side-running Bellevue Way/112th SE allignment will be very unobtrusive and won’t effect your neighborhood much at all.
        And again, has nothing to do with the C segment alignment which is downtown Bellevue.

      2. This isn’t primarily about segment C, it’s about segment B. At least, that’s why Cindy is in favor of it.

      3. Well that and no impacts along Main. Apparently the Surrey Downs folks don’t want any of the houses along the South side of Main taken out, even though almost every single one is now being used as a commercial property.

        Of course we hear one of the typical NIMBY arguments which is “I support X, I just don’t think any location near me is an appropriate place for X”.

    2. “If you don’t live in Bellevue what makes you think you have the right to make decisions for Bellevue?”

      Nobody here is making decisions for Bellevue, but the 1st amendment gives us the right to talk about the decisions that are being made. I’m an Eastside resident, and whether I like it or not, the decisions made by the largest city on the Eastside affect us all.

    3. Cindy, I wasn’t being sarcastic. I’m dead serious that I think it’s a bad plan for Bellevue and one that future generations will regret if enacted.

      That said, I think you’re right that the Council position is a Bellevue problem and has to be solved, or not, by people in Bellevue. That’s pretty much the point of the editorial.

      For what it’s worth, I work in Bellevue, though none of these alignments will go anywhere near my job location.

      1. If you work where I think you do, they are in Eastgate, so the closest for you will be when we enact ST3, but it won’t be that close – just something you could use in an emergency if your car broke down!

    4. Cindy, the “you’re not here so you don’t know!” argument is a ridiculous response to a well reasoned argument against a transit alignment that we *know* garners far less ridership per dollar.

      It seems to me that you support something you don’t understand, because your argument isn’t based on merit.

    5. Cindy,

      We don’t screen for city of residence here. We’re one big regional family. Suburban commenters are constantly diving into Seattle streetcar debates — and are welcome to do so — and the reverse is also welcome.

  12. This analysis is way off base. Bellevue is not a local concern, it is the second largest job center and the top retail destination in the region. Unlike Tukwilla, which really would only affect Tukwilla, a poor routing through Bellevue directly and substantially harms people elsewhere in the region because they are unable to reach Bellevue as a destination. Imagine if for some bizarre reason Seattle decided it wanted light rail to bypass downtown. Would you then say that it makes no difference to the people of Bellevue, Lynnwood, Redmond, Federal Way, Shoreline, etc? Would that simply be a local Seattle concern? Absolutely not. How about if the City of Seatac decided they didn’t want light rail going to the airport. Would that be a local Seatac concern? Absolutely not.

    If light rail doesn’t go where you want it to go, then it is useless to you. On the origin side, alignment is less critical because people can always park-and-ride or get dropped off, but on the destination side, they have no car available to them, other than a possible shuttle bus or taxi. A convenient alignment through downtown Bellevue isn’t for Bellevue’s benefit, it’s for everyone else’s. I’m all for deference to local concerns so long as those local preferences do not contradict regional priorities. ST cannot allow the second largest regional destination to be cut off from light rail simply because of the backward anti-rail bias of the Bellevue City Council. Bellevue gave up its right to 100% local control when it decided to become a major regional center.

    1. Imagine if ST had decided to not pay the City of Seattle for the DSTT and instead push through at grade on 2nd and 4th Ave. Sorry, we need that money to extend to Northgate.

      1. Imagine if ST had decided to not pay the City of Seattle for the DSTT

        Then we would have had a Portland style system and no one would have a tunnel. I’m not sure why it’s mysterious to you that the highest-ridership portion of the system (Northgate-ID) would be the one that’s most definitely grade-separated.

      2. You are correct. Payment from ST is to KC Metro ($24.9 million payment to King County Metro for debt service related to the transfer of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, 2007 budget item). I was under the impression that the bus tunnel had been built using only City of Seattle funds. Is that erroneous or did Seattle then transfer ownership to Metro?

        SOUND TRANSIT STAFF REPORT MOTION NO. M2007-81 Contingency … is a PDF with a lot more detail than I can understand. $217 million is listed as a budget item for ROW acquisition. It doesn’t say who the payment(s) are too. KC Metro clearly operates the tunnel but do they own it? What happens as buses are phased out entirely?

    2. Tony,

      I’m not suggesting ST should automatically follow the wishes of the Bellevue City Council. I make two points in the editorial, which I thought were clear:

      1) “Screw Bellevue” is not a constructive response, and many people in Bellevue are interested in a good alignment.
      2) East Link is still worthwhile with the Wallace Plan.

      That’s far from saying that it doesn’t matter. I specifically say that if you don’t “live or do business there” it won’t affect you. Obviously that’s a much bigger set of people than in Tukwila, but then even under the Wallace plan the service is better than what Tukwila got.

    3. Whoa, dude! “ST cannot allow (emphasis added) the second largest regional destination to be cut off from light rail simply because of the backward anti-rail bias of the Bellevue City Council. Bellevue gave up its right to 100% local control when it decided to become a major regional center.”

      WTF?!?!?!?! Bellevue never “decided to become a major regional center”. Show me the vote on that!

      First they came for the communists…..

      People need to drop this transit fascist crap. Pronto!

      The people are the sovereign in a democracy. Even when they’re wrong.

      1. The people are the sovereign in a democracy.

        There’s no dictator in this hiearchy of government. What we have is a regional level of government (Sound Transit) potentially in conflict with a municipal one. The City is not necessarily the ideal level at which to determine routing. Then again, maybe it is.

        There’s a lot of overheated rhetoric on the anti-Wallace side but this fascism crap is even more outrageous.

      2. Bellevue never “decided to become a major regional center”. Show me the vote on that!

        That would be any number of Bellevue City Council votes on comprehensive plans, zoning, land use, requests to host major regional amenities, etc. Bellevue did very much decide to become a regional center even if it was a matter of a bunch of little decisions over the course of 40 years.

  13. I think people should remember that no matter the option chosen, Route 550 will probably be gone when light rail reaches Bellevue. I doubt Sound Transit will run both light rail and bus between Bellevue and Seattle.

    1. yes and then all those of us that live on the west edge will be in for a much longer walk to link, of course I will not be here in 2023 but it still chafes…

  14. Martin

    Ever the diplomat!! I agree that the BNSF alignment wouldn’t be a disaster but it wouldn’t do a whole lot to tap into the downtown Bellevue, business and shopping commiting and yes, ST would still have to run the 550 bus which it wouldn’t need to do if the alignment kept to the preferred one.

    I agree we don’t need to insult Bellevue in our comments here – it is an important city for both the State and to the region and I am very partial to the city myself, but with Microsoft downtown, the preferred alignment is perfect for their employees to get from their Redmond campus to their downtown one. The BNSF alignment makes little sense to most of us here and we need to try to convince our Bellevue community of this fact.

    1. No, you need to separate the BNSF alignment which is B7 from the downtown alignment issue. I like B7 but can also see the argument for B3 modified as presented as the preferred alternative by the Bellevue City Council. C9T is great and ST should support it and abandon the push for C3T which it admits it can’t afford (and Bellevue doesn’t want) and the surface equivalent which Bellevue will never allow. If funding can’t be found for C9T then the options are delay the project (which might increase cost faster than revenue is collected) or go with the 114th St alignment which would be cheaper and accelerate construction.

      1. Bernie,

        Now that I finally grok what Kevin Wallace is proposing, I’ll agree with your analysis, but with one caveat. That is the difficulty locating a station along SE 114th. Since the trackway will have to rise from under NE 4th to above the freeway in two blocks (NE 4th to NE 6th) while also turning to parallel the NE 6th HOV interchange any station must be elevated above the freeway parallel and directly adjacent to the NE 6th interchange or alongside the freeway on NE 114th between NE 4th and NE 2nd.

        The NE 114th station location is way too far from just about everything in Bellevue and has terrible access for buses.

        So that leaves the cross-freeway location which has some nice qualities. And some horrendous flaws. First the nice qualities: for express buses exiting I-405 for downtown Bellevue, the transfer to Link will be immediate. That is huge, as you mentioned. The second nice quality is that there is no slow next-to-traffic running with signal pre-emption that doesn’t always work. Muy bueno!

        Unfortunately there are some serious geometry issues with this proposal. First, there’s a significant grade required, especially since the Link trackway has to clear the southside HOV ramps connecting NE 6th to I-405. That means that the base of the track structure will have to be somewhat higher than the parallel NE 6th roadway. Second, the curve is way too tight even for trains entering a station. You’d have to take out quite a bit of existing development between NE 112th and NE 114th. Most could be replaced of course, but it’s another opportunity for NIMBY’ism. Third, and I think most important, a four-car station will stretch quite a bit east of the freeway, because it’s not 600 feet wide. It’s going to be quite a visual treat looming over the freeway, no?

        There is a third option, but I think it would require a tunnel. That is to continue north of the NE 6th interchange, then drop down under the NE 8th interchange and swing east to BNSF. The BucksAPlenty option.

  15. I realize that no one is proposing any changes at the moment and there’s no clear momentum to have Link avoid Central Bellevue. The election of one councilman doesn’t change things entirely and perhaps there’s been a bit of an overreaction to this election on STB. However, it’s important that as a region we plan this line correctly. It doesn’t only serve Bellevue, it also serves Seattle commuters and Redmond commuters. Suggestions that we re-hash old decisions need to be stopped in their tracks (pardon the pun).

    I could write a book on why the Tukwila “compromise” was a bad one for our region, but I don’t think you can argue with a straight face that it was a good idea, considering that this compromise:
    – lowered ridership
    – added millions in cost
    – added travel time to points South
    – voided potential for TOD in Tukwila
    – the loss of ST’s credibility in light of the above

    Let’s say the worst happens; the Bellevue Council starts lobbying to change the route to I-405 and ST eventually relents. Here’s the consequences:
    – Ridership numbers will be far below projections. Not only because the thousands of downtown Bellevue *residents* will be poorly served, but because commuters will not have a convenient option to their workplace. There are lots of young professionals living in Bellevue, many of whom commute to Microsoft and Downtown Seattle. Go along the freeway and these people are ignored. I see a mention of Redmond-Seattle commuters above, but the problem is that the line will likely be uncompetitive with the bus in terms of travel times. Most Redmond commuters will probably still use the bus.
    – There will be no park and rides between Redmond and Mercer Island, which will mean anyone east/south of the I-90/405 junction will gain no benefit from the line. An already overcrowded MI P&R will not be able to absorb the demand. With a South Bellevue station, there’s a lot of benefit to the communities of Eastgate, Issaquah, Newcastle, etc. because they can park and ride into the city. A South Bellevue P&R also allows routes to be truncated rather than heading all the way into Seattle. Take this away and you’re going to lose thousands of daily riders.

    I realize that the line is approved and funded and a majority of Bellevue supports light rail. But at the same time, if you build a line where no one wants to go, avoiding all residential and commercial activity along it (or making it inconvenient), I start to question the purpose. Redmond-Seattle commuters won’t use it because it’s still slower than the bus. Seattle-Bellevue commuters won’t use it because it’s too far from their job. Bellevue-Seattle commuters won’t use it because there’s nowhere to park their car or it’s too far to walk from their condo. Newcastle-Seattle commuters will try to drive to Mercer Island and become frustrated because the parking lot is always full. The credibility of the entire line (and support for ST3) will be thrown into jeopardy as ridership fails to meet expectations, and people begin to wonder why they should support an agency (ST) that builds poorly-planned lines that no one can get to.

    ST needs to flex some muscle and use their newly-earned goodwill to do the right thing, even if there’s some short-term political fallout. Hopefully it won’t have to come to that.

  16. Why not wait a few more years in order to get more funding and build this thing right? No compromises should be made on such a massive investment. It’d be crazy to skip over downtown Bellevue.

    East Link can wait. It’s been, what, fourty years? Fifty? What’s a couple decades more?

      1. All of that is moot when the city counsil, and likely the public at large, is ademately against raising taxes. There will be no additional source of revenue to built a tunnel. If there is I’ll eat my hat.

      2. Let’s put this in perspective. Seattle has $234 million in it’s 2009 capital improvements budget for transportation; Bellevue has $20 million. Trying to raise a half billion dollars in Bellevue would be like Seattle being asked to come up with $5 billion dollars. A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money!

      3. Well that depends on how robust the Bellevue capital budget is. The population ratio implies it’s more like the equivalent of $2.5 billion Seattle dollars, which is a lot, but then again I believe the per capita income is higher in Bellevue than Seattle.

        That’s not to say that it isn’t a lot of money.

      4. LID, MVET, employee tax, parking tax, federal grants, state grants, hotel tax, restaurant tax, developer impact fees, property tax… There’s a long list of sources Bellevue could utilize to create a funding package. It’s not like Bellevue’s the first city that’s had to finance a large infrastructure project.

        Seattle easily came up with $50 million for the SLUT without imposing any long term taxes and Bellevue funded their $100 million city hall without raising taxes, surely there’s a way to raise enough revenue for the bonding capacity required for the tunnel.

        I know $500 million is the cost that’s been bounced around, but I seriously doubt that a tunnel through Bellevue is going to cost an additional $500 million over the cost of the surface alignment. The 1.3 mile Beacon Hill tunnel cost $300 million and the 2 mile long tunnel from Capitol Hill to Husky Stadium is costing $310 million. I bet when the C9T cost estimate comes out at the end of this month it is no more than $200 million over the cost of the 108th – 110th couplet.

      5. Why would we wait when the city council can fund a tunnel now?

        Still waiting to hear you’re financial plan Ben.

      6. Yeah, Bernie, the Council presented their funding options. Now it’s time for them to determine which ones they can leverage.

  17. Here’s something you may want to know: Sound Transit is having an East Link alignment workshop in Bellevue on Nov. 18th. The email I got says:

    This workshop will be focused on the downtown Bellevue preferred route and stations, identified by the Sound Transit Board, as well as the tunnel alternatives. Additional public meetings will be scheduled throughout the East Link project area as Sound Transit continues to progress into preliminary engineering along the preferred alternative.

    Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009
    4 to 7 p.m. (presentation begins at 5 p.m.)
    Bellevue City Hall
    450 – 110th Ave. NE, Bellevue

  18. It is pretty easy to sit back and take pot shots at someone like Kevin Wallace but the reality is that you all are just whining and complaining about this issue. Kevin is trying to do something in a meaningful way. If you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem.

    1. Cindy, Kevin Wallace is trying to do something bad to the city of Bellevue. Transit needs to go through city cores in order for it to be cost effective or useful. A line that connects Seattle with auto row isn’t either.

      Wallace is part of the problem. We’re part of the solution. If you really think otherwise, you’re clearly not interested in a transit system.

  19. Anyone who wants more information about The Vision Line that Kevin Wallace is proposing should contact him. You can find his phone number and email address by googling Wallace Real Estate Bellevue.

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