I attended last night’s workshop for the Downtown Bellevue segment of East Link. After the meeting, I talked to Kevin Wallace briefly about the Vision Line. I will be meeting with him on Friday to further discuss details about the plan. I’ll also compile a list of questions or concerns that you might have, so leave a comment below if you have a question you want to ask Kevin about this new proposal. As much as you may disagree with this proposed line or even the premise of it, keep the comments civil and practical. Avoid statements like “What’s with the circusy station? It’s ugly!” I won’t be able to ask him all of your questions, but I will bring forth the most pressing issues.
Below is a recap of the workshop written in real-time.
I’m currently at the Downtown Bellevue workshop for East Link at Bellevue City Hall. Like the three neighborhood workshops that came before this one, public comment booths for each downtown alternative are out with strip plots and maps detailing the plan and elevation of each alignment. Vision Line Coalition folks are aggressively lobbying outside the meeting area and handing out literature to attendees about Kevin Wallace’s proposed alternative. The turnout is fairly high tonight with at least 100, give or take, in attendance. The minutes of the presentation are below the jump.
5:09pm: Katie Kuciemba, the East Link public outreach specialist, has started the presentation. She’s giving a very brief overview of the basic East Link route, the previous workshops, and other fairly nondescript background information.
5:12pm: Katie runs down the purposes behind the meeting and stresses the agency’s need for public outreach. After doing so, she hands things over to Don Billen, East Link project manager.
5:13pm: Don gives some more overview of how East Link is progressing, history of the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement), and how the preferred alternative was developed. Preliminary engineering is still being advanced to a 30% design completion. Don mentions the development of the FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) next year along with a Draft Supplemental EIS for the new alternatives.
The basic timeline for East Link:
- Mid-2010: Draft Supplemental EIS is issued. Public comment period is ongoing.
- Fall 2010: Final EIS published and a final project decision is made by the Board.
- 2011-2013: Final design of East Link.
- 2013/2014: Construction begins.
- 2020/2021: Service begins.
5:15pm: Don proceeds to break down the preferred alternative as it currently stands and mentions how there is only construction funding up to Overlake thus far. The agency is still reevaluating the downtown alignment; with so many new alternatives and stakeholders on the project, this segment is by far the most important on East Link.
5:17pm: Don goes over each segment of East Link in detail from Seattle to Redmond.
5:19pm: Sue Comis, project manager of the Downtown segment, takes over to talk about the Downtown alternatives. She introduces C4A as the current preferred alternative and goes over its routing. The segment would be counterflow to automobile traffic, meaning that trains would run against the direction of one-way traffic. Sue mentions the concerns about traffic impacts and explains the accommodations of a peer review board for traffic analysis of the C4A alternative. She goes on to mention potential property impacts.
5:22pm: Sue talks briefly about C3T, which was identified for further study. The tunnel is deep bored and was the original preferred tunnel option. This is when Sound Transit asked the city to look at additional funding sources. She goes on to mention the more recent new C9T option, a cut-and-cover tunnel that was suggested by a peer review board. As we just reported, the projected cost of C9T is $980 – $1,010 million in 2007 dollars. Starting the tunnel from the elevated guideway at East Main Station would tack the extra $30 million on top of the $980 million base cost.
A quick cost rundown of the most important alternatives:
- C4A: $700M at grade, $705M elevated
- C9T: $980M
- C3T: $1,175M
5:25pm: Sue proceeds to mention the peer review board commissioned to further evaluate the at-grade segment and its impacts. A value analysis workshop held in mid-October also reviewed all of the alternatives. Sue then talks about the newest alternatives that just surfaced:
C9A: An at-grade version of C9T, suggested by the peer review board and recommended by value analysis workshop attendees. There are fewer intersection crossings and eliminates the need for a NE 8th crossing. This is the hybrid alternative recently reported in the Seattle Times.
C11A: An at-grade segment running north along 108th Ave NE, east on NE 6th St, and elevated over 405. This is also another hybrid alternative recommended by the peer review board. The downtown station would be right at the transit center.
5:28pm: Sue mentions the City’s presentation on December 10th to the Sound Transit Board of identifying additional funding sources for a tunnel.
5:29pm: The podium is handed back to Katie, who briefly goes over the comment process and how the attendees can submit comments. She goes over the next steps in the public outreach process leading up to the publication of the FEIS and closes the presentation with her contact information.
5:32pm: Katie opens up a brief period for open questions, with Don Billen answering:
- Question 1: “Are there cost projections for C9A and C11A yet?” Answer 1: No cost projections yet; environmental impact and ridership analysis will come later.
- Question 2: A gentleman comes out very angrily against C4A and claims that no one in attendance supports it. He goes on say that it would “destroy the city” and asks for a show of hands of those who would support C4A. Answer 2: Don Billen calmly responds by saying that Sound Transit is openly making accommodations to consider new alternatives and that the whole point of the meeting was to get input on the preferred alternative.
- Question 3: “There’s been new information about the noise level of the trains. Is there funding for sound walls in neighborhoods like Ashwood and Surrey Downs?” Answer 3: Sound Transit is working to make sure Link doesn’t exceed federal standards. Information about the costs for noise mitigation are to be upgraded for the FEIS.
- Question 4: “What step in the process are you at now as far as finding funding for the tunnel goes?” Answer 4: The City will brief the Board on December 10th to identify funding sources.
5:37pm: The presentation concludes after the open question period. It turns out Andrew and Shefali from the Transportation Choices Coalition are sitting next to me and noticed I was writing for STB. We chat for 30 seconds before they head out.
After the presentation, I head out to check the strip plot for C4A. Ironically, I overhear an attendee state that he does, in fact, support the alternative, contrary to the earlier gentleman’s statement that no one in attendance did. The largest drawback to the alternative is that there will be no signal priority for trains and that left turns that cross the tracks will not be protected by a signal either. Without priority, this could result in significant system bottlenecks through Downtown Bellevue.
Overall, the workshop was very similar to the ones that preceded it. Presence for the Vision Line and against C4A were strong, but things remained mostly civil. Again, drop a comment if you have a question or concern about the Vision Line and we’ll try to get them answered by Kevin Wallace himself.