Last Thursday, the Sound Transit Board heard a report (PDF) on the varying options that have been studied for East Link’s B and C segments. In April, the Board’s go-ahead with the 112th Ave/B2M segment (see image above) accelerated the alignment into preliminary engineering. The Board also chose two downtown preferred alternatives: C9T, a tunnel, and C11A, a surface alternative in the event of inadequate funds for the tunnel. For those unfamiliar with the storied history of East Link planning, the B2M alternative is the most direct path to the Bellevue Transit Center, but because runs so close to neighborhoods, has been targeted acutely by NIMBY residents in South Bellevue.
The report given on Thursday was heavy on how a 112th Avenue alignment could work with “community interests.” Six options were studied which mix-and-matched various 112th Ave modifications (at-grade, side-running, center-running, etc.) with the downtown C segment options, the C9T tunnel and the C11A surface alignment. A brief rundown of the options before I get to my scatterbrained thoughts:
More below the jump.
Options 1 & 2 run the 112th Ave segment to the downtown tunnel with its southern portal at Main Street. The first has trains center-running along 112th, while the second has them running west-side. Because trains need to curve west into the tunnel portal, a more indirect east-side running option was not considered.
Options 3 & 4 run the 112th Ave segment to the downtown tunnel with its southern portal further north at 2nd Street, meaning a shorter tunnel. Option 3 would have trains center-running all the way up 112th to the portal, while Option 4 would have the trains running east-side in a trench/retained cut. The east-side running option was considered here because the 2nd Street portal does not require as tight a turn into the tunnel. The west-side option was nixed due to building setbacks being much wider on the east side of the street with less property condemnations. Buildings on the west-side, however, go up right to the street.
Options 5 & 6 run trains from the B segment to the C11A surface alignment, with 5 center-running and 6 west-side running. An east-side option wasn’t considered for the same reason as Options 1 & 2.
While you can view the CH2M Hill report and analysis in its entirety (PDF), there are a few thoughts about what might be feasible.:
Any option that either runs the trains center through 112th or on the west-side is bound to be unpopular among most South Bellevue residents given the “preserve homes and roads” mantra. Bellevue is also heavily pro-tunnel, meaning that Options 5 & 6 likely do not fare well, despite yielding the greatest cost reductions.
I would surmise that Option 4 would pique the most interest due to: a shorter and cheaper tunnel, wide setbacks east of 112th allowing for right-of-way to minimize property displacements, and mitigated noise impacts thanks to the trench. Downsides include longest construction duration and most environmental impacts within the wetland buffer (but not the wetland itself). However, among the issues that seem most politically important to Bellevue, Option 4 seems most likely to shine the brightest.
Keep in mind that while Sound Transit and the City have ostensibly surged forward with the B2M options, there are several camps that have been steadfast to tauting B7 as the better alternative, which would run trains around South Bellevue and Mercer Slough and alongside the freeway. In February, we openly condemned B7 as an inadequate choice for East Link. At a workshop (PDF) on June 15th, the first of three, ST invited community members and residents to discuss the B2M/112th options. Turnout among B7 supporters was apparent, however. Martin Paquette, an occasional STB commenter, had this small synopsis:
Tonight’s workshop was civilized, and it appeared that a large amount of discussion occurred that related to the best ways to accomplish B2M along 112th Avenue. There were a huge lot of persons who were wearing B7 stickers, but they weren’t blowing tremendously loud horns; rather, they let Sound Transit get its job done. Nevertheless, there were no visible persons who were against B7.
From another report at the same workshop, we also learned a little more about Option 4’s retained cut/trench and its impacts on the Bellevue Club, which would have to lose some land for the right-of-way. Among the concerns were the loss of a few of the club’s tennis courts, little room for landscaping along 112th Ave, and an aesthetically unappealing suicide net that would be placed over the trench.
As previously mentioned, there will be two more workshops (one of which is tonight), and an open house on July 14th. We’ll keep you updated as ST and City move to choose an option for this segment of East Link.