As this posts, the Bellevue City Council is in the midst of another “extended study session,” including another council/staff discussion on East Link.  You can stream it here.

If you attended you can share your report and impressions in the comments.

[Update from Sherwin: 9:07pm] You can also follow along on the Government Access Channel, which is Channel 21 for Comcast subscribers.  The council is currently deliberating the contents of the letter they wish to draft to Sound Transit.  We don’t expect any major decisions tonight, but if anything happens, we’ll provide an update.

[Update from Sherwin: 9:42pm] The council has just voted 4-3 in favor of a motion that says B7 is preferred in the letter.  This is the wording as it is: “The majority of the council now favors B7 as the locally preliminary preferred alternative.”  From what I understand, Balducci asserted that it must say “preliminary” as the Final EIS has not been issued by ST yet.  More to come.

15 Replies to “Bellevue City Council Meeting Right Now”

  1. The Bellevue city council does not seem to understand the basics of light rail or even why it’s being built.

    Vary political.

    1. Judging by their meeting tonight they don’t seem to understand how to even run a council meeting. I feel bad for Balducci, Chelminiak and Degginger because they seem honestly interested in choosing an alignment based on facts and analysis while to the rest of the council it’s all just politics. All this haggling over the B segment is going to loose them a lot of political capital and goodwill when it comes time to negotiating with ST over the segment that matters the most, the C segment. I don’t understand why the council feels so compelled to act this way, why can’t they let the EIS process proceed how it’s supposed to and respond to it at the appropriate time.

      1. Zed, the appropriate time to respond to the EIS process if you are Bellevue City Council opposed to a street railroad in the CBD is right now. Formal comments on the draft EIS were collected a long time ago, early 2009. Sound Transit is “processing” them now (slowly) for publication with answers to cool out criticism. Those answers will come late this year or even early 2011 in the final EIS. The final EIS document comes out with only a 30 day appeal period before the Federal Record of Decision is issued. Very last ditch at that point. If you don’t like what Sound Transit is doing with East Link, you have to make a move now, while you can still influence the Final EIS via politics.

        The EIS process without heavy protest — using information in the draft EIS or left out of it — would be just a papering of decisions made by the Sound Transit Board … and of course supported by voters like those readers here who approved Sound Transit’s doubling of its taxes before the East Link draft EIS — signed and ready before the November 2008 election — was published. Published within a month **after** Prop 1 passed.

      2. Tonight’s meeting wasn’t in regards to the downtown segment John. 90% of the council’s time in the past 3 months has been spent dickering over the B segment, which is independent of the alignment chosen for downtown. The City Council had already voiced their opinion on the B segment last spring when they announced their locally preferred alternative based on information from the DEIS. Nothing other than the political makeup of the council has changed since then. No new facts have come to light, either through the city’s analysis or Sound Transit’s, to justify a switch to supporting the B7 alignment at this point in the process.

  2. This is what I got from listening to the Bellevue Council meeting tonight on web TV:

    The long-standing consensus of this Council and the last Council is that in an ideal world, East Link would pass under the Bellevue CBD in a tunnel, as a subway, like in downtown Seattle, that other great city across the Lake.

    OK, there is not enough money to pay for that subway. What to do? On this Council, three members would be OK putting the train through Bellevue CBD on the street. But if a tunnel is not to be, a majority of four would rather see it skip the CBD on a bypass route.

    There seemed to be a lot of interest on the part of the majority to document the reasons for their preference, which are varied.

    As I said in comments under a Crosscut essay at http://crosscut.com/2010/03/02/sound-transit/19628/#end-of-comments “if you happen to think light rail will not really change mobility to/from/within downtown Bellevue very much, you may want to keep the tracks and station away from the main rights of way in downtown where a street railroad would interfere with cars to some degree.”

    I give evidence in my comment there on how much light rail will change mobility over the next few decades, according to the PSRC in its Transportation 2040 long range plan.

    1. John Niles – Did I miss something? Tonight’s discussion was about South Bellevue, not Downtown Bellevue. They were talking about differences between B7 and the modified B3. Some would say the city’s chances of a tunnel just got dimmer with it’s revised South Bellevue preference, but that debate is still to come – along with yet another letter I’m sure.

      1. I don’t think you missed a thing. The letter becomes part of the DEIS process, and in my opinion prevents a ‘slam dunk’ decision by ST on B3(pick a version). That’s all it really does.
        ST was ready to abandon all the other alternatives, and proceed to 30% engineering on B3S. I don’t think that will happen now, giving time for Bellevue to lock in tunnel funding, or push the whole alignment out of the CBD core if the surface route was the next shoe to drop.
        Actually, it’s quite an interesting chess game, looking several moves out.

  3. VISION 2050 AND B7
    Peak Oil is here, alternate energy supplies to feed our transportation system (cars, buses, rail, and planes) have advanced but fall far short of demand, and our auto/freeway oriented society is struggling to re-invent itself.
    Clearly, a well functioning mass transit system will provide the mobility needs of travelers choosing to live and work near bus/rail connections. Less dependence will be placed on getting the ‘All Mighty SOV’ to a mega P&R, and public ROW’s will become ‘Avenues of Gold’ as planners struggle with providing new mass transit routes mapped out to serve the masses.
    B7 could be an asset under this scenario. Consider the I-90 reversible lanes. They will convert to double rail track, above the pavement, and render all ramps that lead to or from the track obsolete for anything but another train, or the occasional ST track maintenance vehicle. Look at Google Earth. There’s a bunch of ‘em.
    Now look at where E.Link would leave I-90 and flyover the westbound lanes to reach the SBPR. Instead, keep going (EB)to where the ramp splits going to I-405 or Bellevue way. That’s where a natural merge point could be for Factoria/Issaquah trains merging with E.Link trains. Instead of dropping down to Bellevue way, rebuild the ramp to connect to the HOV ramp coming from SB I-405 to WB I=90/Bellevue Way. (It’s a tad complicated, but by demolishing 900’ of concrete, and connecting the two elevated structures, you have a 30’ wide elevated structure crossing the slough in place at little cost ready for direct fixation of rails.
    A new transition ramp, from the elevated section to the BNSF ROW would complete the ROW makeover. Motorist and WSDOT would howl by today’s standards, but in 2040, this would look like a really smart use of public space, especially given that the Issaquah line is now in full construction.
    As for SBPR, after the 550 is gone, and other through routes re-oriented to Willburton TC, it would make a really nice community ‘pea patch’ garden.
    I’ve probably lost many of you by now, and the giggling can begin. Thanks for reading.

    1. Hey, Mike, a bunch of us continue to say sink 520 and just build a rail bridge from Sandpoint to Kirkland. Laughs galore. But given that the tolls about to be instituted on 520 are being raided for the eastern portion of that highway, perhaps the bridge will end up going away due to lack of funds.

      Can you answer this: If South Link goes up the BNSF ROW, how will that affect the I-90 to downtown Bellevue segment of a Bellevue-to-Renton passenger rail line?

      1. It depends on whether the BNSF tracks from I-90 to Overlake Hospital are kept for Amtrak style passenger and freight trains, OR dedicated to public transit using DMU type vehicles, to be converted to Light Rail vehicles when demand warrants.
        DMU’s could share the tracks and station platforms with B7 LRT trains, and benefit from getting more use out of the same corridor capital costs. Also, the bike trail across I-405 at the missing trestle segment is far cheaper to build than a heavy rail crossing. Also, the Wilburton trestle can be down graded to trail specs, and be used pretty much ‘as-is’.
        If FRA compliant standards are kept (freight/pax), then a third main would need to be placed next to Link, and the two bridges over I=405 and Wilburton rebuild, at 1-2 hundred million for both.
        Hope that answers your question. Mike

      2. Commuter rail isn’t going to happen on the old BNSF tracks, get over it.

        People who keep pushing that usually are also selling B7 and C14E snake oil. Often they are attempting to kill any notion of rail transit on the Eastside at all, but coming up with all sorts of crazy proposals rather than outright opposing it. At least they aren’t pushing gadgetbahn monorails and PRT systems anymore.

      3. Mind-reading and ad hominem is always risky. I’m certainly disdainful of B7, but I still get the feeling someone at Sound Transit has a plan to make the commuter rail line happen.

        If it can’t happen, why can’t it happen?

      4. Chris: How can you blindly ignore the fact that I-405 is one of busiest corridors in the Puget Sound for moving people. And ignore studies that WSDOT says justifies spending another 10 Bil or so to double the capacity is warranted, then jump to your conclusion that mass transit, along that very same corridor, costing 1/30th of that amount will never happen, because you say so.
        Using childish phrases to discredit others, like ‘snake oil’ and ‘get over it’, doesn’t make any points with serious thinkers.
        What’s your plan to connect Eastgate, Factoria, and Issaquah into the spine LRT system? What’s your plan to accomodate travel patterns in the future when ‘peak oil’ pricing kicks in full force, and I-405 motorists are clamoring for alternative ways to get to work? Do you have a plan and are willing to put it out there at the risk of having people make snarky little remarks to discredit it?
        On the other hand, Brent may not agree with me, but asked a reasonable question, and got a reasonable answer. Isn’t that more productive?

      5. I’m not ignoring how heavily trafficked the 405 corridor is. I’m simply saying commuter rail using DMUs or Sounder equipment and the existing tracks won’t happen. Future light rail lines on the Eastside may use portions of the BNSF ROW. Indeed portions of the BNSF ROW will most likely be used by East Link.

        However that does not mean we should pick the worst alignment for East Link through Bellevue simply because someone has a fantasy of DMUs running from Woodinville to Renton.

        Anyone who brings up Eastside Commuter Rail should know that the biggest backers of the proposal have used it as a stalking horse to try to say East Link isn’t needed and is a waste of money.

        The studies on ECR have shown it would be very expensive for very little ridership. The money it would take would be better spent elsewhere on better transit solutions such as continuing East Link to downtown Redmond.

        Hopefully trail construction on the BNSF ROW will happen soon and any notion of reviving the corridor for anything other than Link will quietly die off.

        Since you ask, I see Issaquah being served with a spur line off of East Link along the I-90 corridor. I have no idea what the track connection will look like, but the East Corridor HCT study assumed the trains would turn toward Bellevue and Redmond, commuters heading toward Seattle would have to transfer at one of the shared stations. Due to capacity constraints on the I-90 bridge (only one link train at a time) and the DSTT you can’t really just run the trains from Issaquah straight into Seattle. If anything this makes the case for B3 rather than B7. ECR doesn’t even enter in to the discussion of serving Factoria, Eastgate, or Issaquah at all.

      6. Yes, I see your logic now.
        Convert the railroad ROW to a cyclist trail that serves a very small number of riders, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
        Knowing full well that rails to trails ‘never’ return as rails, therefore cancelling any hope of having LRT from Burien to Woodinville.
        Unfortuanately, you are going to win the arguement in the long run, but I still hold out until the fat lady sings.
        We will continue to cordially agree to dis-agree.
        Thanks for dialing down the retoric.
        Mike

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