Last Friday, I explained a potential dilemma between advocates of a 112th Ave west-side alignment for East Link (Option 2), and those of a retained cut on the east-side (Option 4). Some construed my post to mean a Surrey Downs vs. Bellevue Club showdown, which I did not intend to be the case. On Monday, I spoke with Betina Finley, an early B3 supporter who ran an unsuccessful city council campaign last year, who clarified some of the rationale behind the Bellevue Club’s letter and subsequent petition.
Though the Club has supported B7 in the past, I was told that Bill Thurston, club president, has recognized the wisdom in moving forward on B2M. Unlike Thurston’s rational disposition, Surrey Downs still wants any and every train as far away from them as possible. While they are more partial to the east-side retained cut, the prevailing sentiment has still largely been “B7 or bust” as evident by a puzzling new pro-B7 campaign. More below the jump.
In addition to the Bellevue Club’s petition and other support from east-side businesses, another group has signed on to a letter favoring a west-side alignment. Interestingly enough, it just so happens that this group is the bulk of the very 46 residences that would be displaced by the line, a collection of condo-owners that would rather move than have the trench in their neighborhood. These homeowners are willing to be displaced and compensated at market-value by Sound Transit. This would explain why the west-side running option was so popular at the workshop survey.
Unlike the Option 4 trench, the Option 2 west-side running alignment would only be compatible with a Main Street tunnel portal, as opposed to the cheaper and shorter 2nd Street tunnel. Entering the tunnel at 2nd Street would require the trains to move away from the 112th west-side alignment to either the east or center of the street, resulting in a kind of “S” curve. The turns would be due to avoiding the buildings that are built right up to the sidewalk north of the 112th condos. I’ve provided a graphic to the right that explains why this is. Touring 112th via Google Streetview is also helpful.
Despite using the more expensive Main Street tunnel, the entire Option 2 segment would actually incur a greater savings than Option 4, by avoiding the expenses associated with a costly trench. Supporters of the west-side alignment have also pointed to the benefits of a new greenbelt buffer that would replace the condos, essentially an extension of the Surrey Downs Park that exists there today. Ironically, the alignment would bring trains right up to Surrey Downs doorstep. But for a group that has resorted to wild nonsense and desperate attempts to bring back B7, many have grown weary at the obstructionism and just don’t care anymore.
The real issue, of course, is getting the ST Board to recognize these interests. What would be most problematic for the Bellevue Club is a misjudged perception by ST that there is a “holier than thou” attitude carried by the rhetoric of preserving tennis courts, patios, and anything deemed “luxury.” While I don’t agree that this is the right approach for the Club, emphasizing the commitment of the 112th condo owners to be bought out might make for a more convincing argument for the west-side alignment. At any rate, whatever information the Board has will largely shape the decision to pick a preferred option.
Tomorrow, the Sound Transit Capital Committee will meet at Union Station to address the 112th Avenue options and likely make a recommendation to the ST Board to inform a preferred option vote next week. Public testimony will be taken at both meetings. While there is likely to be a lot of B7 noise present, expect rational-minded residents and stakeholders to testify as well.
By the way, if you have interest in seeing Link serve the South Bellevue Park and Ride, there is an Open House tonight at Bellevue City Hall to address that segment of East Link. Unlike last week’s workshop, the meeting will not be interactive and will likely be an open table kind of format.