The Seattle PI reports on the outcome of last night’s meeting:

The council voted 7-0 to send a letter to Sound Transit in support of the “C9T” option, which would tunnel beneath 110th Avenue Northeast before emerging at Northeast Sixth Street and jutting east to cross I-405 to a station at Overlake Hospital.

It appears the city council has plans to cover some of the additional costs associated with the tunnel option, which is about $285 million more expensive than Sound Transit budgeted for its preferred alternative — an at-grade couplet along 108th Avenue Northeast and 110th Avenue Northeast. The excess costs must be covered by the city.

There is still a funding gap which the city hasn’t identified how to fill, but is probably hoping Sound Transit brings some clever ideas to the table. In an open letter last month, we asked Sound Transit to consider putting Eastside commuter rail funds unlikely to be utilized toward East Link. That money is currently earmarked for I-405 bus service expansion, but many would agree that serving downtown Bellevue should be ST’s primary concern on the Eastside.

49 Replies to “Bellevue City Council Sends Letter Supporting C9T”

    1. I wouldn’t say it means that. What’s their backup plan if their $100 million contribution to a $285 million gap just doesn’t cut it?

    1. It’s still possible, but that report that came out last year showed that it would cost a ton of money and not get very many riders. This is definitely a better use of those funds.

      1. The money I think John is talking about is the $50 million that was set aside in ST2.

        It has a time limit by which it needs to be spent, then it gets rolled back into the general ST Eastside sub-area transit monies.

        Don’t spend it before it’s available.

      2. Is that $50 million set aside strictly limited to rail service start-up costs or could it be used for conversion to a trail? I suspect the former. I’d love to see rail service restored on the segment from Renton to Bellevue but don’t think that will happen any time soon. No money, no interest from the City of Renton which would be the only major station location South of Bellevue. I’ve never really seen much potential (more like major opposition) to restoring the rail ROW between Bellevue and Woodinville. Makes more sense to just wait until Link extends to Redmond and tie back in there. And it doesn’t look like that’ll happen for 20 years.

      3. It would be earmarked to I-405 bus service when no BNSF train line is reasonable.

      4. That sounds fair. Maybe they can afford to add stops at Houghton between Bellevue TC and Totem Lake… please. Why is it they stop at Brickyard which has only 242 stalls and skip Houghton which has 470 stalls? I know Brickyard actually has more usage but… if the bus doesn’t stop there then there’s not much use in parking there either.

      5. Thanks for the update. It’s been a while since I’ve been by there. It will be interesting to see how much demand there is since it’s been one of the lots at over 100% (where Woodinville and Houghton have langished down around 1/3 full). Obviously detouring the 532 and 535 out to Woodinville isn’t practical but Houghton is configured to act like a flyer stop. Southbound isn’t great, ideally there would be a covered pedestrian bridge but a hike to your bus is better than no bus. Even using the sidewalk on 70th doesn’t seem like it’s really much longer than that really long sky bridge just north of the county line (not sure what that lot’s called).

      6. 530 & 535 used to serve the 70th Freeway Station, but the 532 was BTC-Kingsagte non-stop. This was back when the Kingsgate Freeway stops were on the outside of the freeway just above NE 132nd St.

        When the new 128th HOV ramps/freeway station opened, 70th freeway station was deleted.
        One reason was the lack of boarding/deboardings except at peak hours, but mostly so these buses could stay in the HOV lane between Totem Lake HOV access and Bellevue NE 6th HOV access ramps. To cover the peak riders at 70th, routes 237 & 342 make a combined 9 South AM trips to BTC and 8 North PM trips from BTC. And I believe most of the spots used in that lot are van pool or 265 riders.

        So these stops were once served, but I don’t think they will be added again. 237/342 can do the job just fine and it’s better to keep the ST routes in the HOV lane between Belleuve and Kingsgate.

      7. Light Rail along the 405 corridor seems like it makes more sense anyways, as you would be able to put it in the real population and transit centers, not just along where the BNSF ROW goes. However, it would be awesome to have Auburn (or maybe Tacoma)-Bellevue commuter rail going up from South King on the BNSF ROW once East Link starts up.

      8. Light Rail along the I-405 corridor, doing exactly that, going to the population centers, was the $4 Billion Alterntative 1(I’ll have to go back and look at the EIS for the exact figure), and had a dismal C/B ratio.

      9. And it has a high neighborhood’s with cash to fight it/vs number of people it serves ratio.

        IF it was elevated along 405 it might have a chance. But if Light Rail is all about serving “cities” shouldn’t it be run along Coal Creek and go from Renton to New Castle to Factoria?

      10. “IF it was elevated along 405 it might have a chance. But if Light Rail is all about serving “cities” shouldn’t it be run along Coal Creek and go from Renton to New Castle to Factoria?”

        That’s pretty much why it cost $4 Billion, since there is lot of ROW to be purchased.

        Rail always does worse in a C/B analysis because its payback in the beginning isn’t enough to ‘reduce congestion’, its payback starts coming onboard just after the 30yr c/b horizon.

    2. I would assume that Eastside rail would be about as effective as, or less effective than, B7. In otherwords, not very viable.

      For Eastside rail to be effective, the Bel-Red corridor would have to develope first, and that is a couple decades away. We should put the money where it matters the most right now, and that is DT Bellevue.

      1. B7 isn’t a system so there’s no comparing it to Eastside rail. The 405 corridor does have the strongest commute demand into Bellevue but Eastside rail doesn’t address that. The only thing it would do is connect Renton to Bellevue and Renton doesn’t seem keen on the idea. Eastside rail misses Factoria and Eastgate. It’s sort of like Sounder North; nice idea but wrong location. North of Bellevue the only place it touches the 405 corridor is Totem Lake. Even there it misses the Kingsgate TC, Evergreen Hospital and the retail/office centers.

      2. It would pass right by the South Kirkland P&R, go through the middle of Houghton and be quite near to downtown Kirkland. Since the line was severed at the Wilburton tunnel, it seems to me that the Bellevue-Woodinville segment would be easier and more productive than Renton-Bellevue.

      3. People driving to S. Kirkland aren’t looking to go to Bellevue (unless it’s to park free). I think most of the S. Kirkland ridership is headed into Seattle via 520. The line completely misses downtown Kirkland. It’s a long hike up hill to the tracks which run almost exclusively through single family residential (residential that has been vocal about fighting rail). There’s no reasonable place to site a station. Bellevue to Woodinville is better served by connecting Woodinville to Link along the Redmond spur. Not only is there nothing along the Kirkland-Totem Lake route but there are a number of at grade crossings which even with the Dinner Train seems to have a lot of accidents even with the limited operations and pitifully slow speed that ran at.

        It’s looking like no matter what ST decides a portion of the BNSF ROW in the Midlakes area is going to get used by link. That means any Eastside rail would have to be able to operate in harmony with Link. That’s a big issue but assuming it could then instead of building a separate bridge over 405 it could use the Link crossing; which would also net you a stop in DT. Neither rebuilding a crossing for 405 or building the system to share Link trackage can be done on a shoe string budget.

        I think that if there’s any future for rail on the corridor it’s mixed use freight and passenger in time separated slots. As fast as manufacturing and industrial use is disappearing on the eastside I’m not holding my breath for that to ever happen.

  1. Of course they want the tunnel alignment but not the B segment alignment that would make the tunnel cheaper.

    1. Until the preliminary engineering is done we don’t know what B segment alignment is cheaper but in the DEIS B7 was estimated at being $10 million cheaper. Those numbers were put out before WSDOT told ST hell no you can’t take the HOV ramps from I-90 to Bellevue Way, build you’re own. That’s got to add another 30-40 million to the DEIS for B3. Also since the DEIS was prepared ST in partnership with the Port of Seattle and Cascade Water Alliance (of which Bellevue is the largest member) have purchased the BNSF ROW so there’s more savings with the City preffered B7 alignment. The City has suggested bringing B7 into the City elevated on 114th and eliminating the South Main Station which, when combined with ROW costs is likely another savings. And along with that alignment the Wilburton Station could be at the currently Metro owned P&R lot instead of purchasing the Greenbaum Furniture site. The parking garage would be smaller than what was planned for South Bellevue by about 1000 stalls. At 30-40k per stall that’s another $35 million for the kitty. So that’s about $100 million in potential savings by using B7. Drop the Muffler City P&R

      The City would also like ST to look at approaching the tunnel from an alignment south of 2nd. That would shorten the tunnel resulting in another cost savings. The reason ST didn’t explore that option further was because the cost of acquiring the ROW along 2nd was more expensive. But the City has expressed a willingness to bear some or all of the cost differential since they have plans to significantly rebuild 2nd and would need to purchase much of the property anyway.

      1. Bernie, you’d want to read the report that was the context of the open letter to get the most up-to-date cost estimates. There are different approaches being offered that could lower the price of east link.

      2. Which report is that? I’ve followed the study sessions, including the packet information but I haven’t seen the formal report from the CEO committe and can’t find it on the COB website. I’m aware of the measures the City proposed to come up with up to $150 million of the $285 million gap. My comment above was a response to the claim that the City was asking for a more expensive B segment alignment when in fact the opposite is true.

        One question I have on the B7 is why was it planned to exit the center roadway at Bellevue Way and cross the Slough north of I-90? Given that it has to be elevated anyway, couldn’t it remain between the east and westbound lanes until they curve to the BNSF ROW? That would seem to have far less impact on the wetlands. Also, since I-90 is elevated so high at that point couldn’t the Link tracks go under the westbound lanes of I-90? I mean they’re trying to get back down to the established RR grade and the old BNSF bridge goes under I-90. The cynical side of me thinks it’s another attempt to promote a preconceived agenda rather than study the merits of each alignment.

      3. Bernie, the big study we published noted in the last two pages that a new option for the north end of B, B2A (to connect to B3), would save about $100 million for a tunnel.

      4. “Given that it has to be elevated anyway, couldn’t it remain between the east and westbound lanes until they curve to the BNSF ROW?”

        The HOV ramp from southbound 405 to westbound 90 is in the way.

        “I mean they’re trying to get back down to the established RR grade and the old BNSF bridge goes under I-90.”

        The BNSF bridge goes over I-90, not under. The entire Bellevue Way, I-90, I-405 interchange is very complicated, I doubt if there is any easy way to get light rail from the end of the express lanes to the BNSF ROW while staying within the footprint of I-90. I’m sure WSDOT wouldn’t be too keen on having light rail threaded through their bridges and overpasses either. I think that steering clear of I-90 as soon as the tracks reach the east end of the east channel bridge is probably the easiest way to go.

      5. The BNSF bridge is about 40 feet above I-90. There’s also no room underneath I-90, since that’s where 118th is.

      6. Ah, you’re right. I was thinking of always looking down on it from 405. I’m rarely if ever on that stretch of 90 since I’m always exiting from 405 to 90 when I use it. So it looks like staying elevated in the center would make a smooth transition to where the BNSF bridge meets the ground on the north side. Snaking through the spaghetti at the Bellevue Way interchange though might be the hang-up.

      7. You can’t replace SBPR with Wilburton- the commuter market is different, not to mention a striking ridership differential. And forget wishing on parking 1000 spaces smaller– this is Bellevue, it’s not going to happen. Wilburton or SB, you WILL get a huge parking garage (which I’m against in principle). And the former’s footprint is too small to accommodate one, so B7 will condemn the Greenbaum site.

  2. Why isn’t Bill Gates chipping in? It’s his city. He, and his former buisiness, is the reason to why Bellevue and Redmond even exist.

    The tunnel will happen whether or not they have to start collecting pennies off the ground.

    1. Perhaps if we had an income tax going to transit for high earners, he would be chipping in.

    2. Bellevue would exist without Gates, though it would not be quite as big or wealthy. Redmond is another story, without Microsoft it would be much different.

    3. Bill Gates doesn’t live in Bellevue. Medina is his city. Paul Allen is a Mercer Island Resident. Steve Ballmer lives in the town of Hunts Point which is not part of Bellevue.

      Microsoft is headquartered and has it’s corporate campus in Redmond. They may have more employees in Seattle than Bellevue. I know that’s changing (a lot) with the new Bravern Tower but as of 2006 (latest info on Bellevue’s website):

      Largest Employers in Bellevue, alpha order
      Bellevue Community College
      Bellevue School District
      City of Bellevue
      Boeing Shared Services Group
      Expedia Inc.
      Nordstrom Inc.
      Overlake Hospital Medical Center
      Puget Sound Energy
      Symetra Financial
      T-Mobile USA
      Verizon Wireless

      PacCar is also headquartered in Bellevue and was the first “tall” building. What was that fancy restaurant up on the 12th floor called?

      1. Bernie, that’s a little old. MS has opened several new buildings in Bellevue since 2006. I believe they’re up to #3 or 4.

      2. I thought I heard that when all their buildings are occupied they will be the largest employer in Bellevue

      3. But the point is in 2006 Bellevue development was pretty much what you see today. MS is a Johnny come lately to the party. It’s also all leased space and while I’m sure they’ll keep a strong presence in both Bellevue and Seattle the push over time has always been to pull in leased space to the Redmond Campus as space becomes available (like buying the Eddie Bauer HQ building. I think it’s in Bellevues favor to not be a one company town. Of course when Boeing has a downturn the whole region slumps and any loss of momentum by MSFT has a similar effect.

      4. Johny come lately? MSFT was headquartered in Bellevue from the time it moved from Albequerque in ’78 or ’79 until it moved to Overlake around 1986. It had its first manufacturing and warehousing operation in the Factoria area. Since then, it’s had a contiuous presence in the city. A few of the buildings at the main campus are actually in Bellevue.

      5. Allen lived briefly in NM. It’s a stretch to say the company was headquartered there. As Bellevue began to boom Microsoft beat feet to Redmond.

        From Funding Universe:

        In 1981 the company was incorporated as Microsoft, Inc., with Gates as president and chairman and Allen as executive vice-president. The company closed the year with 128 employees and revenues of $16 million.

        In March 1986 Microsoft held an initial public offering (IPO) of 2.5 million shares which raised $61 million.

        And the rest as they say is history. Not sure which buildings on the main campus are in Bellevue. The City limits around Overlake are pretty convoluted but they seem to neatly miss all of the land Microsoft purchased for their campus.

      6. I spoke with a civil engineer at one of ST’s Bellevue open houses who said the Hospital station for the newer alternatives would reserve the BNSF ROW for potential Eastside commuter rail. It would be a good place for a transfer station.

      7. Oops, the above post was supposed to be in reply to Bernie’s comment about Eastside Commuter rail.

        To Bernie’s latest comment in this thread, MSFT buildings on the southwest corner of 156th Ave NE and NE 31st St are in Bellevue.

      8. I’m looking at the online city limits map from City of Bellevue and Redmond. They both show Bel-Red road as the dividing line except for a small triangle bound by 156th Ave NE and NE 28th St. They may have had a Bellevue mailing address at one time (the platt name is Bellevue Gardens but 98052 is a Redmond Zipcode) but those buildings are inside Redmond city limits. I think this is the parcel you’re refering to:

        Property Information for 0673100004

        Interesting that the appraised value is $71 million but in 1999 (a year after it was built) Microsoft sold it to the City of Redmond for $0.

        FWIW I remember looking at these boundaries several years ago and it was a lot more checkerboard. I seem to remember Bellevue and Redmond doing some horse trading a few years back if for no other reason than it made fire and police response a nightmare. This was also close to the dividing line between AT&T and GTE and there were places where calling across the street was long distance.

      9. You’ve shown me to be wrong. As you say, it might once have been Bellevue, but then they straightened out the property line.

        The property transfer you referred to was a quit claim deed for a small area near the street intersection, for street and sidewalk use.

      10. Ah, thanks. Lesson to be learned, you’ve got to actually pull up the quit claim deed and read it. I’d missed that little icon on the King County Parcel Viewer page. I’ll have to go back and look at the details for King Street Station but this explains a lot of similar transaction I’ve seen in City of Bellevue. Though some are actual change of ownership for the parcel. I’m guessing that in this case MSFT “gave” the city the easement because they were benefiting from the street and sidewalk improvement. The City of course benefits from the development by being able to collect property taxes on a much higher assesed value and generates a lot of jobs. The whole thing was probably rolled into the agreement to permit the development.

  3. JJ wrote: “That money is currently earmarked for I-405 bus service expansion, but many would agree that serving downtown Bellevue should be ST’s primary concern on the Eastside”.

    of course ST already serves dowtntown Bellevue with routes 550, 555-556, 532-535, 560, and 566; it serves downtown Bellevue with its contribution to the NE 6th Street center access ramps; it serves downtown Bellevue with its contribution to the third phase of R8A.

    Using it for either rail service on the BNSF or I+405 would also serve downtown Bellevue.

    Serving downtown Bellevue has already been ST’s primary concern in East King County.

  4. Ben …

    Comment by Ben Schiendelman
    2010-03-23 20:49:18
    Bernie, the big study we published noted in the last two pages that a new option for the north end of B, B2A (to connect to B3), would save about $100 million for a tunnel.

    is there a link to this “big study”

  5. I know there has been some talk of starting the tunnel on 2nd, but if the tunnel is going to cost so much it seems silly to only have it go from 2nd to 6th… it’s just so short why bother

    1. The why bother is because it’s grade separated through DT. The idea of the portal being on the south side of 2nd was in conjunction with the City completing it’s planned conversion of 2nd into a major east/west arterial with a half diamond interchange (exit northbound, entrance southbound). An at grade crossing of 2nd and 4th is what makes the tunnel important. It also eliminates the impacts on Main which when 2nd is widened would be put on a diet and become two lanes each way with a center turn lane and bike lanes. It would become a people oriented corridor reaching all the way to Maydenbauer Park that the City is developing along the lake.

      Grade separation could also be achieved by remaining elevated but that’s been deemed less desirable since it puts the station farther from the transit center and creates more issues with noise an aesthetics.

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