The three alignments (B2M/C9T, B2M/C11A, B7/C9T), click to enlarge

Tomorrow, the Sound Transit Board is expected to modify its preferred alternative (motion: PDF) for East Link.  On Monday, in a surprise move, Bellevue Mayor Don Davidson voted with councilmembers Balducci, Degginger, and Chelminiak to sign a term-sheet that establishes the basic funding principles of financing a C9T tunnel.  With this non-binding term-sheet (PDF) now approved by Bellevue, the ST CEO Joni Earl will likely sign off on it as well and move forward to select B2 modified and C9T (downtown tunnel) as its preferred alternative.  C11A (downtown at-grade) will be chosen as a secondary backup alternative for the downtown segment.  These were all earlier recommended by ST’s Capital Committee on April 8th after it was found that Bellevue’s obligated funding gap for C9T was far more possible with a B2 connection.

While C9T is the alignment of choice for the vast majority of Bellevue residents, there will likely be discontent among neighborhoods that have eagerly supported pushing light rail away from the South Bellevue Park and Ride, and to the BNSF corridor.  This B7 route has been shelved by ST multiple times because of multiple concerns, including low ridership which wouldn’t justify its construction.  The Bellevue City Council voted 4-3 for B7, and 7-0 for C9T.

The board meeting will take place tomorrow, April 22nd, in the Ruth Fisher Boardroom at Union Station from 1:30pm-4:30pm.  Public comments will be taken near the beginning of the meeting (the agenda can be found here).  We’d encourage you to make it out and show your support to move forward on ST’s decision.

32 Replies to “ST to Change Preferred East Link Alternative Tomorrow”

  1. Cue the Surrey Downs accusations of “bullying” by Sound Transit in 3…2…1…

    Hopefully any lawsuits they file won’t delay construction.

    1. That is probably one of the modifications. It wasn’t included in B3M because the assumption was that the Winters House would just be relocated. The City really wants to preserve that spot (and I actually don’t blame them), so B2M includes squeezing the ROW into a lidded trench between Bellevue Way and the Winters House.

      1. Wasn’t the lidded trench also discussed as a possible modification to B3 side running as well?

    2. That’s my question too. I think it’s a great idea but I haven’t heard anything about it. Are lidded trenches (“cut-half-cover”?) cheaper than elevated?

      1. That’s a good question. I really doubt trenches are cheaper as soil nailing and retaining walls are not cheap implement. But, the headache of constructing (maybe cheaper) elevated guideways may not be worth the pain created by neighbors complaining about their ugliness and delaying construction w/ lawsuits.

        So, from my hypothesis, the options become build cheaper elevated guideways that are more prone to complaints and delays, or dig a cut and cover trench that’s more costly but may shut people up and allow construction to proceed sooner?

        Though, the CanadaLine in Vancouver uses a ton of cut-and-cover, and it was relatively cheap to build. It all boils down to soil conditions and public outcry!

      2. The Winter’s House is on the National Register of Historic Properties. I believe that the trench is a way for Sound Transit to avoid moving the house as it would be in violation of federal conditions for treatment of historic properties, but don’t quote me on that. The Winter’s House has lath and plaster construction. I don’t think there is anyway that it could be moved without significant damage that Sound Transit would be responsible to pay for fixing. Moving a building is not cheap. It is possible with lath and plaster that the vibration from construction could create damage as well.

      3. The porch of the Winters House is only about 40 feet from the sidewalk. I don’t know how ST can possibly squeeze a light rail line through there even with a cut and cover without damaging the House. Also, this adds about $20 million (I think, this # may be off) to the project. Why not locate the line on the BNSF and truly preserve the Winter’s House?

    3. Yep. I think it’s a great idea as it will avoid potential congestion at the 112th/Bellevue Way intersection and will also potentially quiet the trains that run close to homes.

  2. Too bad there isn’t a B2M & C9T combo (having two stations between South Bellevue and DT Bellevue). Yes the travel times increase, but it’s nice to have some more stations between DT Sea and DT Bellevue. More TOD opportunity, improved density, expansion of DT cores, and shutting up the locals who are “too far” from a station are some advantages. It’s already going to kick the crap out of driving and the horrid 550 travel times.

    1. Mike it’s not likely at least in the next 50 years that any zoning or TOD will happen in south bellevue. The city can still grow quite a bit in the core, and Bel Red will be the new growth center for the foreseeable future. I would love to have up zoning along the route but it’s just not going to happen.

      1. Along those lines, why is there a station at SE 8th? I can’t imagine there is much development potential there. Most of the buildings and parking lots in that area are built on a wetland – There is little chance of increased density.

        I actually used to work in one of those buildings (Lincoln Plaza) and would have used light rail had it been available. That said, it’s hardly worth a stop there, given the density in that area. Am I missing something?

  3. Forgot to add that with the awkward spaces along MLK and the LONG 5 minute haul to Tukwila, it really feels like we lost some opportunities to develop new areas of Seattle.

    1. I suppose a Graham station could be added pretty easily after ST2. Although the Save Our Valleyites would grumble about construction on MLK again just when they got their road back.

      The 9-minute haul to Tukwila is all along highways with only small pockets of single-family houses. I don’t see where you could make much more of them. There has been talk about a 133rd Street station that the 150 might be able to terminate at. I’m not sure how feasable that is.

      We really have our hands full with Mt Baker, Columbia City, Othello, and Rainier Beach. Only Othello is progessing on its own. I think we need to prove we can make viable urban villages at these stations before we start adding more rough gems.

      Also, I really think we need to put top priority on extending the lines and adding lines in the neighborhoods that don’t have rail, before adding infill stations. The lack of rail lines to all parts of the city is the biggest thing holding back the city from transforming into a transit paradise.

      1. I really doubt any stations will ever be infilled. We lost that opportunity to do something more when the line was built. Think 10-20 years in the future how the area around nearly every station will look completely different than it does now.

        With that said, there isn’t much of anything at Rainier Beach Station (especially to the south), nor is there much of anything or even the opportunity for non-industrial development at SODO & Stadium Stations, but there’re still stations at those locations. My prediction is SODO and Stadium Stations will remain the same, minimal development, few riders, and a waste of 3 minutes stopping.

        Additional stations at Graham, near the Duwamish River bridge, and at 133rd Street could have had some great potential to add density. But ST was far more focused on getting it to SeaTac Airport (a mistake in my opinion).

      2. Stadium was built specifically for the stadiums, and SODO for the industrial jobs and Sears-area shoppers. So they will remain on target (low ridership except during games). But Link is significantly faster in that area than the busway buses, have you noticed? So they don’t add much to travel time.

        What could happen at Graham that would preclude a future station? The only likely development is more apartments and shops. And the developers/residents would have an incentive to keep the area compatible with a future station.

        SeaTac was important. An airport is the biggest generator of pedestrian trips in a region. Look at all those taxis and shuttles which could potentially be turned into rail trips. People judge cities based on whether they have rail from the airport to downtown. Having rail elsewhere but not to the airport would be strange.

  4. A new route through Overlake is also likely to be adopted. Redmond City Council recommended the NE 24th to 152nd route change to stay along SR-520 from 140th NE to NE 40th. The 152nd station would slide north to 152nd/SR-520.

    Of course this is relatively minor compared to the dowtown Bellevue and south Bellevue issues.

    1. I like the first map above the best. It’s the best mix of serving the South Bellevue P&R with a sensible tunnel downtown, and a straighter routing into Downtown. The cost savings from the at-grade routing along 112th are huge because all that really fronts 112th are parking lots.

      The only real criticism I have of this routing is that the transition from 112th to the tunnel should be an underground connection that is straightened. The current 90-degree curves of the elevated structure will significantly slow things down. A gentle curve would avoid the elevated structure, potential property takings along main street, and obviously speed the line up.

      1. ryan this is also a problem i have, I am hoping that ST can come up with a way to go under main from 112th instead of over, that sharp turn is slow and will probably be noisy.

      2. The line is being designed this way because of terrain, as Main Street goes up a fairly steep hill west of 112th Ave NE, and because the tunnel under downtown Bellevue would be a cut-and-cover tunnel so staying under the 110th Ave NE right-of-way is absolutely necessary to avoid additional property-acquisition costs. Going elevated to make the turn from 112th to Main essentially puts the elevated-to-tunnel transition along Main at the elevation the tunnel will be dug at (meaning the grade of the tunnel itself will be mostly flat). If you went underground on 112th before making the turn to Main the tunnel would then have to come back up a significant vertical distance (60 feet maybe?) while under Main and 110th to reach the station on 110th at NE 4th St. I don’t think that is possible considering the distance and turns involved to stay under existing streets.

  5. So this would mean one fewer station in downtown Bellevue? I.e., there would only be one station serving all of downtown Bellevue?

    I much prefer C11A. Why couldn’t they take this additional tunnel funding and put at least part of C11A in a tunnel too? It would be a hybrid part tunnel, part surface route, but it seems doable. And the connection at the Bellevue TC would be better.

    Just my 2-cents worth.

  6. I really wish there was a way to have the stations in C11A but with a tunnel. The SE 8th station doesn’t seem very promising, and only having one stop downtown is a mistake. A stop closer to Main Street would be a good addition to the tunnel alignment.

    I see why they did it. With the way the tunnel comes out on NE 8th the Transit Center Station has to be moved south, and then the short section on Main is the transition between the elevated and tunnel portions, so there’s no room for a station there, and it would be too close to the Transit Center Station.

    I almost think a surface route would be better because of station placement. Still, I’ll accept either of the first two options, as long as we can get rid of B7 (like we seem to be rid of C14E.)

    1. A tunnel similar to C11A was originally recommended by the Bellevue City Council – it was called the C2T. But ST didn’t go for that since it made too much sense and costs too many cents.

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