[UPDATE 3/9 Adam Parast] Here are some informational links about Freedom of Information Laws, of which the Open Public Meetings Act is included. In this situation the sticker is usually about wether an “action” was taken. Details about what is considered an action is about half way down in the second link.

[BREAKING] The Bellevue City Council just voted to send a letter to Sound Transit stating B7 as the “preliminary preferred alternative.”  From my understanding, a vote of 4-3 was taken in favor of a motion that would have amended the letter to read that “the majority of the council favors B7 as the locally preliminary preferred alternative.”  There was some debate over the wording of that sentence, as Councilmember Balducci wanted to ensure that the preferred alternative was only “preliminary,” due to the fact that the Final EIS has not yet been issued by Sound Transit.  Councilmember Lee wanted the sentence to merely state “locally preferred alternative,” showing a clear split in the council.

A second vote was taken to for a motion to actually send the letter, which I understand was also 4-3.  We’ll have more information as soon as it comes.

[Update 11:47pm] Michael Marchand, who we endorsed for Bellevue City Council last year, contacted me with some more specifics about the meeting.  The three votes against the language for B7 were cast by councilmembers Balducci, Degginger, and Chelminiak, as expected.  However, the three votes against sending the letter happened to be cast by councilmembers Lee, Wallace, and Robertson, all having openly supported B7.

I was also informed that were questionable goings-on earlier:

The fireworks really started when the discussion came about the letter and council learned that there were five letter(s) in play and that the amended Wallace letter that was being circulated among councilmembers may have constituted a Open Meetings Act violation. Based on Robertson’s testimony of how she worked on the letter with Wallace, Lee and Davidson, Chelminiak was quite certain that the OMA was violated in this instance and voiced that in Council.

61 Replies to “Bellevue Picks B7 as “Preliminary” Preferred Alternative”

  1. When’s next Bellevue City Council elections?

    Sorry Kemper, but your paid-for reign on City Council needs to come to an end

  2. Can they possibly claim with a straight face that they made this decision after a dispassionate consideration of costs, benefits, ridership, and future growth? How refreshing it would be if they just said, “We know this is a bad alignment, and we don’t really care. We like what we like for our own business reasons. The studies be damned.” Such transparency would be most welcome.

    God I’m sick of hearing about this alignment.

  3. I’d be half tempted to not give them much of an option and give them the reason of financial stability of the line and return on investment. Sure as with all transit it will be subsidized but there will be better farebox recovery and more opportunities if routed into DT Bellevue.

    1. This segment in question does not deal with downtown Bellevue. That segment, C, is far more contentious. Expect a new Bellevue suggestion every six months until opening in 2022.

  4. Bellevue voted…and so what? Just because Bellevue wants it this way doesn’t mean Sound Transit has to go along with it…right? It would be naive to think that Bellevue’s decision won’t be be given serious weight, but what if the ST board just doesn’t find it up to snuff, ‘preferred alternative’ be damned?

    1. I live it Bellevue. The council’s split and one of the member voting against this is also the member of the ST board.

      The media didn’t cover the city council races so it a leap to say the city supports this vs the council. Remember majority of Bellevue voted for this line.

      1. Kenneth, you’re spot0on about the sorry state of journalism in this town. Not having a newspaper to focus on the elections, and now to shine a spotlight on the Council’s behavior really hurts our city, and leaves us with this circus. It will take grass-roots efforts like this – and talking with your friends, family, associates, other parents on the soccer pitch – all of that, to raise awareness of how inept this City’s elected leadership is. Speaking of the majority on the Council, however. Two who are too young and overconfident, two who are too old to serve effectively – versus three very smart, very effective leaders. Who won last night? The minority. Fun to watch!

      1. OK, no, the C14E through DT Bellevue is the “Wallace Properties” alignment but I have never heard anything about Wallace owning property next to Wilburton P&R or anything.

      2. Bernie, any of the B3 alignments would work with the “vision line” segment through downtown Bellevue. Including B7 in the plan seems mostly to be a cynical ploy to ensure the support of those in Surrey Downs.

  5. Really, nothing has changed. The City Council voted for a B3 modified and if that wasn’t chosen for advancement to 15% engineering then the preference has always been for B7. Despite the Bellevue City Council’s attempts to find compromise ST has chosen to ignore advancing the true B3 modified and instead funded engineering of a different ST proposal of B3 side running which ignores the important transition from B to C of the City Council B3 modified.

      1. There is also a jog along SE 8th and 114th SE that is in the City of Bellevue version of B3 “modified” but not in Sound Transit’s version.

        Bernie claims this is enough of a change to justify the City Council pushing for B7 instead. I don’t really see it as I think the ST version actually has fewer impacts than the City of Bellevue version.

      2. also consider that if the B2A (112th NE at-grade) alignment is followed North of SE 8th there is the possibility of bringing the C9T (110th tunnel) alignment in at a price that might be workable between Sound Transit and Bellevue. This sort of precludes either B7 (BNSF) or the jog in Bellevue’s version of B3 modified.

      3. The main point of B3 modified was to mitigate the impact on the tranistion to DT at Main. The side running idea was a cost savings but wasn’t a modification to the route. The Council was clear that if B3 modified wasn’t chosen to be advanced to 15% engining then by default the unanimous decision of the Council was for B7. ST declined to advance B3 modified so the locally preferred alternative has remained B7. ST is compelled to advance that and not their own B3 tweeks.

      4. For those who want to read for themselves what the city council said last year in regards to it’s preferred alternative, including modifications to B3, you can read it here;

        http://www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/pdf/Transportation/cob_pref_letter_on_east_link.pdf

        The B3 modified alignment developed by Sound Transit that is now at 30% engineering meets the majority of the criteria that Bellevue cited in developing the B3 side-running scheme. The part that differs between the two, the segment from SE 8th to Main, is still up in the air. No one yet has decided how the B segment will enter downtown. It depends on which C segment is chosen and whether or not the city and Sound Transit want to cut costs by running in the median of 112th from SE 8th to Main.

        The idea that the council has flip-flopped to B7 because the B3 modified being developed by ST doesn’t match the magic marker drawing produced by the city council is hogwash. Everyone who knows and has followed the council meetings knows that it is a purely political decision, and there are 3 city council members who will attest to that.

  6. I hope my gamble works, and I really do make enough these next couple of years to be able to move to Seattle. I don’t think I could handle living in Bellevue again, not with this bought and paid for council making decisions based on marching orders and not the facts.

  7. I don’t get why the three B7 proponents would vote against sending the letter that includes their preferred alignment. that part of this post confuses me. Is there any clarification or additional detail you can provide on this?

    1. Yeah me too. I was thinking that they don’t want to send a letter that obviously shows a divided council, with language that isn’t very strong. Another thing is that they don’t want to send a letter that very well might have breached open meetings laws. Just image that. ST can say to the city, there is no way we are considering this letter because it’s creation violated city and state good government laws. In light of this we will use the cities previously chosen preferred alternative, B3 with surface running through downtown.

      1. I hope that’s the reasoning, in which case, the pro-transit side of things is showing itself quite adept at political maneuvering. The B7ers really are looking amateur with the way they are handling this.

    2. All of the B7 pros but Don voted against it because it wasn’t strong enough -didn’t include all the ‘arguments’ (sorry, they’re not facts) contained in Wallace’s letter. The minority won last night.

  8. I would sincerely hope the Sound Transit Board says “thanks, but no thanks” to the Bellevue City Council’s “preferred alternative.” Why let four rogue members of the council undermine the financial viability of the *regionally* funded rail system? The ST Board has a responsibility to all people within the Sound Transit region to deliver the best possible transit system. The Bellevue City Council on the other hand has made it immensely clear that Kemper Freeman’s interests are paramount to having the most financially viable transit system that also most effectively serves the Sound Transit region.

    1. “The Bellevue City Council on the other hand has made it immensely clear that Kemper Freeman’s interests are paramount …”

      Can I please see any quotes you have from Mr. Freeman regarding the B7 alternative?

      1. http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/why-dont-rich-eastside-developers-want-light-rail-in-downtown-bellevue/Content?oid=3304540

        On the other side of the debate: A handful of well-connected developers, including development mogul Kemper Freeman Jr., want the light-rail line to skirt the center of downtown Bellevue, stopping by the freeway. The Vision Line’s main Bellevue stop would then be roughly a quarter mile from the South Bellevue Transit Center and just over half a mile from Bellevue Square, at the core of downtown.

        Freeman suggests that commuters like me could shorten the long walk by riding “a moving sidewalk,” he says, or “something similar to what I call the ‘Disney Train,’ which is what goes through Disneyland.”

        Keep in mind also Freeman gave thousands towards studying the Vision Line as well.

      2. A couple of thoughts … Bellevue Square is not at the core of downtown Bellevue, it’s at the western edge. Sounder’s main stop is more than 4000 feet from downtown Seattle, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt ridership. Central Link’s closest stop to southcenter mall is 2 miles away, and it hasn’t seemed to hurt ridership. And the Vision Line’s main Bellevue stop would only be 2000 feet from the BTC, half the distance from the King St Station to Union Street, the core of Seattle’s CBD.

      3. Good points. Though they provide little proof for how to design a light rail system to serve the greatest number of potential riders. If there are options that take you where the most people are, you choose those – as will the Sound Transit Board.

      4. This is in reply to Sam, but I couldn’t do it under his article since comments would not nest there.

        Here’s the reason the Sounder’s awkward Seattle terminal location hasn’t hurt ridership. People from as far away as Tacoma and Everett are so desperate to avoid the 1-hour drive to Seattle along I5 that they’ll put up with all manner of inconvenience to get to Seattle without having to do the drive. Not so for the drive from bellevue to Seattle.

        Additionally, buses go by 4th and Jackson every, oh, 3 minutes, and it’s a free ride up to Union. In Bellevue, buses would go by every 10-20 minutes if one’s lucky, and as it stands right now would not be free.

        King Street Station was a sunk cost. It was a facility already existing that people re-used to save money. There’s no similar sunk cost in Bellevue yet. The city has the chance to pick the RIGHT place for the transit station from a ridership/dollars/convenience point of view, not just from a “what benefits the people in power most” point of view.

        Regarding Southcenter mall, unless I’ve missed it, I haven’t seen office towers full of workers who need public transportation there lately. So the distance of rail from Southcenter mall isn’t a good comparison. It’s not about being close to Bellevue Square. It’s about being close to where the office towers are, and those are definitely clustered well west of 405.

      5. What’s in those Bellevue office towers? Thousands of workers. What’s at Southcenter and the immediate surrounding area? Thousands of workers. One deserves front door light rail service and the other doesn’t?

      6. Not to say Southcenter doesn’t deserve to be served, but the magnitude of thousands for these two transit markets is different.

      7. Central Link’s success in spite of it bypassing the enormous job center that is the southcenter area is proof that if East Link doesn’t go through downtown Bellevue, the sky won’t fall and it won’t be the disaster many here are claiming.

      8. Southcenter required a signifigant jog in the line that would have increased travel times and added cost for few riders. Its all in the Central Link EIS and SEIS if you care to dig it up. Discussion of the merits of the various alignments considered for Central Link is also a matter of record as part of the ST board’s selection of a preferred alignment. It really is not the same thing as the discussion of where East Link should be sited in downtown Bellevue other than the Bellevue City Council seems to be behaving similarly to how the Tukwilla City Council did when the alignment for Central Link was selected.

      9. With King Street Station, there really wasn’t any other practical alternative for a downtown Seattle station site. Sure something might have been able to be built between Virginia and Broad along the waterfront but that would have been even more out of the way and difficult to access than King Street.

        In addition to the large number of buses serving the area along 4th Avenue and Jackson, let’s not forget that the Internastional District station of the DSTT is only a block away and that the South end of the Waterfront Steetcar was also only a block away.

        King Street also has the stadiums, Pioneer Square, and the International District within easy walking distance.

        Again the situation with King Street, Sounder, and Downtown Seattle is very different than the “vision line” station and Downtown Bellevue.

      10. Sam, I think the point is that we can do better than “not a disaster” in downtown Bellevue. For better or worse the Southcenter decision is made and built. In Bellevue there is still opportunity to make a *good* alignment for riders. Yes, a Vision Line alignment would still have riders, but why should we not try to serve as many riders as conveniently as possible?

  9. As our regional red administrator said, “It’s Amateur Hour” in Bellevue. The ultimate letter was voted against by Lee, Wallace and Robertson because it didn’t strike their preferred tone: strident, passionate, and fact-free. It simply states the city’s preference has changed. The best thing to come of this will be when ST Board hears the thud, and ignores it for what it is: political coverage for the City when ST chooses B3/B2 anyway. There is no way ST will build B7 – and they sure as hell can’t justify C14E. So the only issue here is whether sending this letter jeopardizes the tunnel funding negotiations downtown. If not, we might just get there.

  10. It may be just me, but each time you mention one of the segments, I can’t remember which is which. It would be nice if you posted a link to the single definition of each of the segments in each of your posts that refers to one of them.

    I think that the B7 is the segment that goes east of the wetlands, and skips the south Bellevue park and ride.

    I’ve been a downtown bellevue resident since 1998, and have seen how much use the south bellevue park and ride gets, so find the idea of not taking advantage of it to be ludicrous.

  11. This is political theater at its finest (or worst, depending on your sense of humor). There are people in Seattle who would give their right arm for a Link train through their business/residential districts due to the social and economy value it brings. The council’s motives are obvious, and the good citizens of Bellevue who believe in the benefits of a B3 alignment should start making some noise. Serious noise. Otherwise you wont see a train before Ballard does.

  12. 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. I’m guessing that those ramps will be re-purposed to link up with the new HOV lanes coming before construction is started on East link. I don’t imagine the train would handle some of those slopes very well. Am I missing something?

  13. There was a bill heading through the state legislature that basically preempted local zoning authority over projects costing over $1 Billion. The folks fighting against felt it would give WSDOT authority to put freeways wherever they wanted, but I was wondering if the change in law would allow ST to plow the rail line through Bellevue wherever they wanted.

    I can’t find the email so I’m not sure if it became law or not or if it even applies – anybody have a clue what I’m referring to?

      1. Maybe if ST dressed up the line to resemble a ferry boat?

        Wait! I got it! Build the line through Mercer Slough on a viaduct made of ferry boats!! Mary Margaret would love it. I’d bet she’d even bring some carrot cake to celebrate.

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