ST's preferred South Bellevue alignment

While there were a lot of expectations that the Bellevue City Council was going to make a decision on the B segment last night, it appeared that Robert’s Rules stopped them.  For votes amending previous decisions (in this case, B3S), the council needs to put it on the agenda beforehand.  If so, a simple majority is sufficient.  Since that was not the case, at least five votes had to be in favor of one particularly side.  Considering the relatively even split of the council, Mayor Davidson decided not to pursue such a vote.  However, there is a possibility a vote could be put on the agenda for next week’s session.

Much of the East Link discussion was regarding C segment’s traffic analysis and environmental impacts of B segment.  It appears most of the information was not really new.  Of the highlights of the night, Kevin Wallace went off for a few minutes on how noisy the Link trains were along MLK Way and even said that trains were “squealing in and squealing out” of Westlake.  Those of us who pass through the station regularly are well aware that no squealing has ever been a problem inside the tunnel.

The “comment” of the night comes from several Surrey Downs residents as I was leaving the meeting.  One women said that when comparing the value of their homes to “those apartments” along the B7 route, the apartments are “not worth nearly as much.”  The others with her scoffed in agreement.  I think we’ve hinted before that this kind of conceited ‘neighborhood vs. neighborhood’ thinking makes us really question the credibility that these residents have in “wanting what’s good for Bellevue.”

73 Replies to “Bellevue City Council Picks…Nothing”

  1. Thanks for the heads up on the meeting Sherwin, and ‘enduring’ a very long night.
    It’s pretty clear that Bellevue city and staff want no part of any surface alignment, based on the gridlock (LOS F++)conditions portrayed for 2030, even without ANY signal priority for Link. Getting any sort of signal pre-emption for LRT would be nearly impossible from the current group of decision makers, making the service no better than being stuck in current traffic jams.
    It’s my sense that the council is struggling to justify the tunnel option, and doing it in such a way that no local taxes are raised to do it.
    Also, a big factor in the decision tree will be visual, noise and vibration effects imposed on which ever neighborhood will be choosen. They seem pretty squeemish about making the curve from 112th to Main on an elevated structure 20-30ft in the air, to get a jump on the hillside, before going into a tunnel portal. I suspect they’ll have there own consultant report as ammunition for the next meeting.
    And it appears that B7M(through the slough) is DOA! It was stupid on their part to even propose such a beast.

    1. Mike I’m sure you know this but just to clarify traffic will be terrible with or without link on surface streets.

      1. Yes, that’s right. In fact, staff pointed out that without Link it would add about 20% more cars to the mix, so maybe that’s LOS F++ on steriods.

      2. Given that the traffic conditions in Bellevue will be even worse under “no-build” I don’t see how the City of Bellevue can use that to argue against a surface alignment.

        It is also important which intersections in Bellevue are the ones showing gridlock conditions. The intersections C11A and C9A pass through are much more lightly traveled than the ones along say NE 8th or Bellevue Way.

      3. Cindy,

        It may not get traffic “off of city streets”, but when China makes exclusive supply contracts for most of the oil in the Middle East and Africa, that will get cars off of city streets.

        And you folks in “The Cute Li’l Surrey With the Fringes All About” will be riding school buses to work while the folks living near electrically powered Link will still be cruising along in their — admittedly much more crowded — quiet vehicles.

        P.S. “off of” is redundant. “off city streets” means exactly the same thing.

  2. I’m not sure why we’d expect Bellevue to come up with the money for a tunnel, when the main beneficiaries of a tunnel would be riders further north on the line who have their commute quickened. That would be people from Redmond, primarily.

    Those living in downtown Bellevue would have a quicker commute and a larger walkshed with at-grade. But the at-grade slowdown would have significant impacts on timing dependability, and could destabilize the plan for the eventual headways in the DSTT.

    If the Bellevue City Council got behind a plan to use toll money from 520 to help build the Bellevue transit tunnel, I think they’d have the clout to make it happen. Commuters from Seattle would end up help carrying the cost burden of this project, which seems fine to me.

    1. The SR-520 money is already spoken for… however if I-90 is tolled as well I believe there is some extra money available after the new SR-520 is funded.

      1. That sure would be nice, but actually, we are short on SR 520 funds even if we toll ALL the lanes of I-90 — and that’s to build the “cheapest” plan ($4.65 billion.) We’d need to raise revenue from somewhere else to build a rail tunnel in downtown Bellevue, a light rail extension to downtown Redmond, etc.

    2. Brent,

      Why a “larger walkshed” and “quicker commute” on the surface? Are you speculating that two CBD stations will be built if Link is routed at-grade?

      Underground stations are normally larger than at-grade ones, and with multiple accesses usually expand the walkshed. True, it’s only a half block at the most, but it’s definitely no smaller.

      And I really don’t think you’re gonna get using toll money from SR520 for the “DBTT” past our DINO-dominated state legislature.

  3. When the Bellevue City Council votes on the B segment, is that the final say on the matter, or can Sound Transit override their choice?

    1. The Sound Transit board is who will select the preferred option in the FEIS. The City of Bellevue can get into a pissing match if what ST picks isn’t what the City Council wants. See the situation with Tukwilla and Central Link for an example.

      I think the Bellevue City Council and the Sound Transit Board are hoping a solution everyone can live with will be found rather than resorting to lawyers at 50 paces.

    2. City of Bellevue doesn’t have “say” in the decision at all. They’re just making a recommendation to Sound Transit – the ST Board is the body that chooses an alignment.

      I feel like I’ve explained this to you before.

      1. Perhaps not, however they do have control over the permitting process that Sound Transit has to obide by.

  4. While I find the Vision Line proposal to be non-serious, I still see South Bellevue P&R as inadequate for the long-term needs of this line.

    Is there any plan to have something equivalent to the International District/King Street/Amtrak hub on the eastside? Would running the Renton commuter line and East Link through the same tunnel be feasible, and would it be a workable connection for riders?

    1. “Would running the Renton commuter line and East Link through the same tunnel be feasible”

      Don’t think so: FRA regulations prohibiting the two different types of trains sharing tracks

      1. Actually I suspect it depends on the cars chosen for the Renton commuter line, if such a beast ever sees the light of day. The Woodinville subdivision has very light freight traffic (1 train per day?) from Woodinville North and no freight traffic from Woodinville to Gene Coulon park. The segment from Gene Coulon to the junction with the BNSF mainline is fairly lightly trafficked as well. Therefore it is entirely possible a future Renton commuter line might choose non-FRA compliant DMU cars like the Stadler, Siemens Desiro, or Bombardier Talent cars used in New Jersey, Austin, San Diego, and Ottawa. I believe the non-compliant gear can share tracks with other LRVs but I’m not sure. Of course if the Renton line used locomotive hauled cars or FRA compliant DMU gear then the line couldn’t share track with Link due to the FRA rules.

        A bigger issue would be the problem of diesel exhaust from the DMU gear, different clearances, different floor heights, and different minimum curve radii.

      2. Are there reasons LRVs can’t be used for the Renton run? Is the assumption that a diesel train could use the current track?

      3. When building a low-frequency commuter line on a single track you generally want to avoid the expense of installing an overhead contact system, so DMU LRVs or railcars like the Colorado Railcar models or old Budd RDCs are preferred.

        You could double track, electrify, and run frequent trains but that is a light rail system not a commuter line.

      4. Raill traffic on the east side: I read that there are 2-3 trains a week on the east side rail line from Woodinville north, and nothing south of that. When the Wilburton tunnel was removed, that cut the line making rail travel between Woodinville and Renton impossible if/until an overpass is built at Wilburton.

      5. Aren’t software programmers known for working all kinds of crazy nocturnal hours? If what my college roommates did is indicative of the greater population of programmers, such hours would be perfect for employees in that industry!

      6. They could go through the same tunnel but on separate tracks. The F train and the LIRR will do this soon under the East River. Amtrak NEC, MBTA Commuter Rail and the MBTA Orange Line do this in Boston. San Diego Trolley, Coaster and Amtrak Surfliner run parallel in San Diego from Old Town to San Diego-Santa Fe and then to the trolley barn via the non-revenue Coaster tracks past the Convention Center.

      7. Sound Transit can’t even run trains and busses through the same tunnel at the same time. How on Earth would they achieve this?

    2. There will probably be a transfer station at Overlake with the Eastside Commuter Rail, but I expect that in a couple decades we will have a line all along the 405/518 from Burien to Lynnwood.

      1. Eastside commuter rail is just a fantasy. It just isn’t worth it and that is what every reputable study that I have seen shows.

      2. I suspect using the ROW between Gene Coulon Park and Factoria for an extension of a Burien/Renton Link line is far more likely. Even then such a beast is a ways off, while the numbers for a Burien to Renton light rail line look good, it is unknown if it would make the cut for ST3 (or if there will be a ST3).

      3. If and when we put light rail on a new SR 520 bridge, the former BNSF ROW from South Kirkland to Bel-Red (maybe 1.7 miles, at grade) is all that’s really needed to interline SR 520 service with East Link (while serving the massive new TOD in Bel-Red as well.)

      4. Guys, you get that it’s a nice fantasy, right? There’s no money of the magnitude that’s necessary.

      5. Putting more ambitious ideas aside for a moment, I wonder what it would cost to construct a ped/bike trail for the length of the corridor without jeopardizing the ability to add rail service later. I wonder, too, what “ridership” that trail would achieve. (Does anyone have usage counts for the Burke-Gilman?) It sure would be a nice way to access East Link from the north or south.

      6. In 2005, on the Burke-Gilman trail there were approximately:

        > 1,440 work related commuter trips each weekday
        > 1,624 recreational trips each weekday
        > 2,746 trips each weekend day

        The numbers for the Sammamish River trail were lower. I would assume for the Eastside Trail the numbers would come in somewhere between these two existing trails.

      7. Between Coal Creek parkway and Gene Coulon Park there is already a perfectly good bike trail. The BNSF ROW is only feet away from the Lake Washington Trail in many cases. OTOH taking some of the on-street sections of the trail (even when those sections are on quiet residential streets) and moving it to the BNSF ROW would have some benefit.

      8. There is no “bike trail” from coal creek to gene coulon. There is a short bike trail from Coal Creek Parkway to approximately Newcastle Beach Park, and another short connection from the end of 106th Ave to Ripley Lane. The remainder of the route (90% of the distance) is on city streets, some of which are low traffic and others that are not (Lake Washington Boulevard in Renton, for instance). And the difference of a “few feet” also includes many feet of vertical – the current bike routing is very hilly compared to the ROW which is flat.

      9. “Eastside commuter rail is just a fantasy. It just isn’t worth it and that is what every reputable study that I have seen shows.”

        Which studies are those? The PSRC 2007 BNSF Corridor Preservation Study?

        I’ve searched that document up, down, sideways, and cannot find any reference to ‘ridership’, ‘boardings’, etc. The original study by the PSRC in 1992, at least had those projections in it.

        The I-405 Corridor Program‘s conclusion?

        They never took commuter rail on this corridor out to the Cost/Benefit stage. It was shot down by the City of Renton and the Kennydale Neighborhood Associaton, and dropped it before we got there.

        When WSDOT was going planning to daylight the Wilburton tunnel, All Aboard approached Sound Transit and asked that they seriously study this. David Beal was very honest, and after having done my stint on the I-405 Corridor Program I can understand his point, and he said “We can’t just say ‘We (ST) are going to put money into this‘, without coming up with some numbers.”

        After doing the study, and arriving at the 6100 rider per day figure, in his report to the ST board he said this was a desirable corridor, and it was worth pursuing.

        However, the parameters ST and the PSRC is using, show a high level of service for ‘commuter rail’, hence the $1Bil+ figure.

        Higher than need be to begin a startup service. Building it out to the likes of Sounder in the Tacoma-Seattle segment isn’t necessary now. Build station like Tukwila, or even use less lumber, and have Edmonds station platforms with small shelters. Single track with sidings can suffice in the beginning. As ridership grows, more upgrades can be made.


      10. I believe ST has $30 million ready to hand out to anyone who can build the BNSF commuter line. Wonder why no one has taken them up on it? See Adam’s comment. Also, I believe the Hospital station design does no preclude a commuter rail transfer station.

      11. Assuming the legal issues can be worked out that $30 million might make a nice down-payment on a Bellevue Link tunnel and might make the City more willing to come up with the rest of the cost.

      12. It’s $50 million.

        If no bid appears, that money is already programmed elsewhere (I believe the ballot measure has a specific place it needs to go). It wouldn’t be available for a tunnel.

      13. Dang, thats too bad. Having $50 million plop out of the sky and into the downtown Bellevue tunnel fund would make a whole lot of things much easier.

      14. Here’s the language from ST2:

        If a partnership for passenger rail on the BNSF corridor in East King County is not executed by December 31, 2011, the $50 million included in the ST2 Plan for a partnership will be reprogrammed to further the implementation of HOV BRT service in the I-405 corridor in East King County. Options for alternative investments in the I-405 corridor will be developed for Board review and approval prior to expenditure of these funds.

  5. Slight change in direction here, and maybe Ben knows the answer to this.
    Stubbing off the existing B alignment would have to occur somewhere, get across 405 and then timing of trains from Redmond and Issaquah would be a factor going back over I-90, given both would have to merge with Central Link for tunnel access.
    The Bellevue council brought this up several weeks ago in a planning workshop for Factoria/Eastgate, and staff didn’t know the answer.
    It just seems like that should be figured out in concept before a final B segment is nailed down.

    1. I’ve thought about this too. I would think that a line to Eastgate/Issaquah is inevitable. To make things easier now, a stub should be built so that the line could easily head over the lake, and also turn north at Bellevue Way towards Downtown Bellevue.

      1. One of the concepts I saw in the East corridor HCT studies was to have the Issaquah segment turn North toward the S. Bellevue P&R and merge with the East Link line there.

        This would mean trains could run between Issaquah and Redmond but there wouldn’t be a one-seat ride between Issaquah and Seattle. However this was conceptual so the junction with a future Issaquah line is hardly set.

      2. I think Mayor McGinn is trying to do this. But it’ll take time. I think his plan is to have the light-rail cross both I-90 and 520 bridges. The line across I-90 (as we know) is going to end at Redmond. The line crossing 520 can give Medina, South Kirkland, and North Bellevue LRT access, and then the line will intersect the East Link (Green Line) in downtown Bellevue before continuing East to Issaquah and North Bend.

        It takes time, but every resident in Greater Seattle will have access to this LRT/Subway network in the future.

      3. A 520 line going north to Kirkland, then south to Bellevue and Issaquah? And people thought a Southcenter detour would be bad.

        I think anybody coming from Issaquah would transfer to East Link in Bellevue rather than going to downtown or UW via Kirkland. Although maybe that’s the expectation for this convoluted line.

        But the worst line I’ve seen is Vancouver’s Millenium Line, which loops back on itself. So the fastest way to get from the last segment to downtown is to take it the opposite direction (toward the end of the line) to Comemercial Drive, and then transfer to the same line going the other direction — or the Expo Line which joins it — to go directly downtown. Otherwise if you go the “right” way, you have to detour way out to New Westminster and back.

    2. NOPE! Sound Transit won’t even talk about it. If they admitted that light rail should go out to Issaquah some day then they would have to look proactively at how they can set that up through ST2 and that is just too much like doing something right for them.

      1. Issaquah is in the PSRC plan, the ST long-range plan, an Issaquah line was part of the Eastside HCT studies Sound Transit did, money for studying the corridor is part of the ST2 package.

        I’d say Sound Transit has “admitted” light rail should some day go to Issaquah. However this does nothing to make the B7 alignment any more compelling. If anything it tilts the deck in favor of those alignments that serve the South Bellevue P&R.

  6. Haven’t we read here that the tunnel ultimately is maxed out when the east link as envisioned is completed, together with central link’s extensions?

    If so, does the next tunnel go under 2nd, 4th or 5th Avenue? I’d think 4th.

    1. I’d say either 2nd or 5th are the best candidates for a second downtown transit tunnel alignment. But if such a thing happens it is quite a ways off.

  7. What do the different colored lines on the map represent? Is there a good spot that has all of these eastside light rail maps (with legends) and cost and ridership info?

  8. The “comment” of the night comes from several Surrey Downs residents as I was leaving the meeting. One women said that when comparing the value of their homes to “those apartments” along the B7 route, the apartments are “not worth nearly as much.” The others with her scoffed in agreement. I think we’ve hinted before that this kind of conceited ‘neighborhood vs. neighborhood’ thinking makes us really question the credibility that these residents have in “wanting what’s good for Bellevue.”

    How obnoxious, especially considering the B7 alignment will put trains right outside of people’s bedroom windows. Even with a center running B2A or B3 there will be quite a bit of separation between the rail line and any houses along either Bellevue Way or 112th SE. Even more so if a side running configuration along the Mercer Slough park is chosen.

    Lets also not forget that the light rail line, contrary to the fears of homeowners in Surrey Downs, is quite likely to increase property values in the neighborhood, especially if a station at 110th & Main and another at SE 6th & 112th SE gets built.

    1. Yeah, what irks me the most about the Surrey Downs folks is that people have the chutzpah to stand up and try to influence public policy and projects without apparently doing any research at all on the topic. It doesn’t take more than 30 minutes of online research to realize that all the paranoid concerns about crime, noise, filth, “undesirables,” and reduced property values are just fear-mongering myths. That, to the contrary, they stand to enjoy significantly _increased_ property values if Link runs near their neighborhood. Almost without exception, NIMBY’s that initially oppose light rail in their ‘hoods come to value and even cherish it (Martin linked to a great example of this from Portland in a News Roundup earlier this month) after it is built.

      1. The sad truth is that they are not myths. There is plenty of research to prove that. In regard to crime, ask anyone in Portland, St. Louis or Seattle for that matter about crime around light rail stations. They all have first hand experience.

        Reduced property values are not a myth. While I admit that property values stabalize after about 1/4 mile from a light rail station or light rail line, it is also true that property values immediately next to a station and along a rail line in between stations will plummet. Have we completely lost all compassion for folks that will be afftected by this train wreck (oh I made a funny)? Who are we (from the safety of our homes far away from raillines) to judge how important these issues are for the people in these situations? Imagine the person who was ruined by Enron or WAMU or any number of other financial crisis, is still unemployed and running out of savings. The only real asset they have left may be the value of their homes. Now imagine that person is your mother, your grandparents, your brother, cousin, aunt, uncle or sister. How do you feel how?

      2. Cindy, you say crime increases around light rail stations, yet I haven’t really seen anything to back that up other than accusations thrown around by those opposing transit.

        I can only speak to Seattle, but there was crime all along the Central Link alignment well before the Sound Move vote in 1996 and near the DSTT stations even before DSTT construction started in the 80’s. Just because a crime happened near a rail station doesn’t mean the rail line “caused” it. Only long-term crime statistics and controlling for other factors can tell you if the rail station had any real effect or not. To do otherwise would be as silly as me saying churches lead to more crime because many crimes happen near a church.

        Similarly you make assertions about property values but provide nothing to back it up. Everything I’ve seen says property values increase around rail transit stations but if you have anything to counter that I’d like to see it.

        Furthermore for all of the Surrey Downs residents supposed concern about property values you seem remarkably unconcerned about the property values of the condo owners along 118th. In their case the rail line will be mere feet from their homes rather than across a rather wide and busy road.

      3. I am not unconcerned about the 118th property values. As I have stated, I am not sure which alignment to support at this time. The issue of property values is not a 118th v. Surrey Downs issue, it is a universal issue for all to be concerned about. I will look up studies and post them here.

      4. The same could be said about roads. In Beaux Arts, most of the criminals arrive by car. We’re constantly hearing about suspicious vehicles. Should we tear up the road and all ride bicycles to keep the criminals out?

      5. What a marvellously interesting idea.

        Cars are by far the easiest and fastest way for criminals to get away (they tend to get caught when leaving by public transportation).

      6. “Reduced property values are not a myth.”

        Yes, they are a myth. Look up any study on property values near rail lines. Being within 1/4 mile of a light rail station causes your property value to shoot way up — in fact values go up out to about a mile (in walking/driving distance) from the station. The danger is in fact gentrification, conversion to commercial property, and increased property taxes!

        If you’re more than a mile from a station but less than a mile from the track, *then* your property values are likely to go down. That’s a problem with longer-distance rail lines. But light rail lines have frequent stations so this doesn’t happen much.

        Please, for the sake of the homeowners who want their property values to go up, put the rail stations next to them.

    2. People I can’t believe that you are buying into this. Sherwin dear, [ad-hominem]

      Do you actually know the people of Surrey Downs, all of them? Were people from Surrey Downs the only people that were present at the meeting? Are the people of Surrey Downs the only people who have anything at stake in this issue? The truth is that you don’t know who those people are but are simply once again using Surrey Downs as an easy target. I don’t know what alignment I will support butI do admire the professional way that Surrey Downs perports themselves. I don’t believe I have ever read a hatefilled blog (that is the reality tv of the internet) written by Surrey Downs.

    3. “Lets also not forget that the light rail line, contrary to the fears of homeowners in Surrey Downs, is quite likely to increase property values in the neighborhood, especially if a station at 110th & Main and another at SE 6th & 112th SE gets built.”

      The rather smarter homeowners and businesses in Minneapolis and St. Paul are complaining about the (much needed) Central Corridor light rail line specifically because it *will* increase their property values. They’re afraid of gentrification and getting priced out.

      That is actually a reasonable fear. The Central Corridor is far too important not to build it because of that, but it’s a reasonable worry rather than a factually incorrect one.

  9. The Puget Sound Region would be much better off if a meteorite hit Surry Downs. I’ve had to work with those self-absorbed lemon suckers before.

    1. And yet you know who they are instead of hiding behind nom de plum and taking potshots from the security of invisibility.

  10. If you put the ENTIRE light-rail line underground a cut-n-cover tunnel, the noise and screeching is no longer an issue. If you can’t see the light-rail, how can it be a problem.

    Build a subway, not a streetcar!

    1. What magic pot of money is supposed to pay for putting the entire light rail system underground?

  11. I used to bike from Renton Highlands to BCC a few times a week via Coal Creek Pkwy. A few years ago it was mostly shoulder riding on two lane roadway. Just went back to that area and it’s now bike lanes the whole way with sidewalks. Traffic still flies at 40-50 mph though.

  12. The really crazy thing about the comments about property value, as usual, is that property values invariably go up next to a light rail line. Property values near train stations *always* go up, and the station spacing is close enough that anywhere near the line is “near” a station for that purpose. (Long distance train lines can have station spacing large enough that there are properties near the line but not near the station, but it just doesn’t happen with light rail.)

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