The rightmost map shows the City's preferred B7 route.

Tonight, the Bellevue City Council will discuss the results of a few independent studies it contracted out regarding further analysis of East Link’s B7/BNSF alignment, the City’s “preferred” alternative.  Though not an unexpected move, I last balked at a few decisions, including the feasibility of moving the South Bellevue Park & Ride further south to connect with B7 at I-90.  As if that was our only concern.  Over the weekend, Bellevue city staff released documents that highlighted the reports of these studies.  While there was some new information brought to light about small-scale concerns with B7 and the DEIS, the fireworks that the City may have been expecting to launch B7 to stardom were not there.

You can find the PDFs of the reports at the City’s website here, and attached summaries in the packet (PDF) for tonight’s study session.  More below the jump.

I think the two studies that are most pertinent to the case for or against B7 are a peer review (PDF) of ST’s B7 analysis in the DEIS, and study of alternative locations (PDF) for the South Bellevue P&R to connect with B7.  The first, which essentially scrutinized how equitable of a job Sound Transit did in the DEIS, was prepared by David Evans and Associates, which I’m told is a reputable firm that is actually based very near where a B7 line would run.

The few concerns in the report focused on the station sizes, anticipated demand, and subsequent impacts.  Because the DEIS based its park-and-ride sizes off development potential, and not ridership forecasts, the 118th/Wilburton (B7) Station would be oversized, and South Bellevue undersized.  In turn, “underestimating impacts” would result at the latter station. Unfortunately, the Evans report assumed that most ridership demand would be generated primarily by auto trips.  Because a far greater number of residences are within South Bellevue’s walking buffer, a greater share of ridership at that station would be accounted for by walking and biking than at the 118th station.

We’ve also heard a lot of fluff about the DEIS being flawed intentionally to cast bad light on B7.  Here’s what the Evans report had to say:

DEA’s review finds that Sound Transit’s East Link DEIS fairly compares the B7 alignment with other Segment B alternatives. The technical approach and methodologies used to evaluate the environmental impacts of B7 are generally consistent with professional standards in the various disciplines. However, several specific items were identified as lacking, which DEA would typically expect in an EIS analyzing a project as large as East Link

…the level of design work appears similar between the B7 and B3 alignments.

The second report, prepared by KPFF, analyzed six different alternatives for a new park-and-ride that would connect to a B7 station at I-90, two of which were carried further for additional analysis.  Bear in mind that this would be sited no more than 2000 feet from the existing park and ride at South Bellevue.

The first, Alternative A-2, would stick a $170 million park-and-ride into a pocket of hillside between 113th Ave SE & the Bellevue Way ramps, requiring the displacement of 12 residences.  A walkway would connect the garage to the station platform, resulting in moderately long and very long walks between the platforms and both the bus connections and the north end of the garage, respectively.

Alternatives A-2 and C (KPFF Consulting Engineers)

The second, Alternative C, would be a wild nonstarter from Sound Transit’s perspective.  The $210 million station would site a park-and-ride right over WSDOT’s current Bellevue Way ramps, which would add “substantial unplanned costs”, “unpredictability and expense”, and greater environmental impacts due to the “proximity to Mercer Slough Park.”  Anyone who has ever biked through the Slough up to the East Channel Bridge also knows that this monster would take the joy out of any ride through the area.

The report has much much more information, which is truly not worth getting into.  You can view the full analyses of the other alternatives, along with the technical appendices here (PDF).

While there is a lot of new and re-processed information in these reports, it is clearly evident that there’s nothing stunning that would make B7 any more attractive to Sound Transit than it already is.  In particular, the agency has no incentive to luxuriously spend more money on building high-impact stations mere feet away from the footprint of an existing one.

Tonight’s meeting (study session agenda here) will be an important one as it will likely contain discussion revolving around these findings.  Furthermore, the council is also expected to discuss the 112th Avenue options, which may inform the Board’s preferred choice on Thursday.  Bellevue residents who care about transit have a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate that many residents have moved forward on B2M, and that the city can do the same as well.

26 Replies to “No Fireworks from Bellevue’s Independent B7 Studies”

  1. Wonder if Bellevue is busy dreaming like this because the closest they have to dealing with a large infrastructure project like this is when they rebuilt the 405 interchange. In other words, they simply don’t know what is and is not possible.

  2. Surrey Downs and friends are breathing their last gasps of air for the silver bullet route.
    I was disappointed the cities own consultant choose to only study the methodology of the DEIS rather than think outside the box and come up with an option that caters to transit riders rather than autotopia, by accepting the fact that a huge park and ride is a given. If it is, then SBPR is as good a place as any, and that requires a B2 routing, which narrows the choices down to the present ones.
    CHECK AND MATE.

    1. I’m with you on thinking outside the box: Slap a parking fee on the P&R of $2-$4, spend 5-10 Million on improving cycling infrastructure in the surrounding areas, and keep the balance in reserve for additional transit feeding into the station. 15 minute service on the 240, 222, 555, 556, and 560 during at least rush hour would yield dramatic improvements in ridership if they were well integrated into the South Bellevue and/or SE 8th stations.

      Bellevue already has several cycling improvement projects slated for the area just crying out to be funded.

      All that said, Sound Transit promised a “regional park & ride” during the vote so they may not want to back out at this point.

  3. In light of budget cuts and hard decisions, I hope people remember that they wasted $200,000? to get more ‘proof’ to shut up Surrey. Arg!

    1. Don’t underestimate Surrey Downs or ‘better’bellevue.org they are well organized and have residents in South Enatai signing petitions to support B7 put a new park and ride with more car noise in the Enatai neighborhood.

  4. I actually like the concept of alternative C. Basically it says to me “we’re going to take this land that’s already wasted on auto-infrastructure and add a little more purpose to it”. I would prefer to see the P&R there than on it’s current location where it is taking up potential parkland. Plus if it was there it would be along a future Seattle-Issaquah route.

    That being said the additional costs are a dealbreaker. I say if the Bellevue city council cares so much about B7, they should agree to the additional costs. That way we get a better location for the P&R at no new cost to ST

    1. Yeah, as a general concept I like ALT C but it’s an even worse investment than the Alaska Way DBT.

      As Mike said above:

      I was disappointed the cities own consultant choose to only study the methodology of the DEIS rather than think outside the box and come up with an option that caters to transit riders rather than autotopia

      All of the multi-story in City P&Rs are losers (S. Bell. and 130th). S. Bellevue is particularly bad because we’re paying for 1,500 stalls but the net gain is far less because 500 spots are already there (some surface parking will remain). At best you subsidize each P&R commute with a mult-story garage to the tune of about $4 a day. With S. Belleuve that number is more like $6. For a $210M dollar temple to parking it’s up in the $20-25/day stratosphere!

      (none of which propose the bizarre pull-in and back-out suggestion one of the city council members made off-the-cuff a few months back).

      I don’t know why a stub track is such a bad idea. It adds little to the cost (assuming it’s worth serving S. Bell. with a train instead of a bus) but stub tracks to Eastgate P&R would be a much better investment. One, there’s already a glossal multi-story garage there which is east of the I-405/I-90 interchange. Two, it prepares the way to reach the thousands of P&R stalls already in Issaquah plus the potential ridership from Bellevue College and the development in that area.

      1. The stub track to South Bellevue is a bad idea because the operator would need to get out, walk to the other end, and a get settled in there. Instead of stopping the train for 10-30 seconds, the stop would be ~2-4 minutes, depending on how full a train is and how long the train is. It’s horribly inefficient, especially given the large investment; the suggestion comes from elected officials who really don’t know how to plan a rail system.

      2. Reversing operations mid-run is an insane waste of time and money unless you are running a driverless/automated system AND/OR you have a premier destination that must be served but cannot be through-routed. Aside from peculiarly-sited airports and a few intercity rail stations (such as Bradford Interchange in the UK), it never makes sense.

      3. Arguing against something that was merely hinted at off-the-cuff, rather than the proposals that were actually studied, is also a waste of time. Did you not notice on the maps that the stations stay in-line?

        There is plenty to argue against the proposals. But first, pull up the study and look at the proposals, so you know what you are arguing against.

      4. Yes, but it’s so in keeping with Seattle’s image of “Transit Oddities”. WTF, that would get some world class attention :)

      5. East Link won’t be driverless although it would be relatively easy to grade separate the entire line east of DT Seattle (with B7). I can see that it would take 2 min. for the driver to change stations and to stay on Schedule you’d have to have a 4 min. layover built in. that time just reduces the layover at the end of the line it really doesn’t affect the system that much. But I agree, S. Bellevue just isn’t important enough (and never will be) to support it. Eastgate might be. Of couse there’s the small issue of needing several hundred million extra which doesn’t exist. OTOH, it’s money that’s going to have to be found if rail ever did extend out the I-90 corridor. I guess it makes more sense to build multi-story parking garages and avoid that issue since the most important thing is initial ridership rather than building for the future.

      6. I hereby apologize for my participation in the degeneration of this comment thread. =) Let’s try to stay on Sherwin’s topic, folks.

      7. I don’t think we really know. You can fit 16 people in a phone booth but load/unload times are terrible. Someone should try for a record next time you’re stuck in the DSTT :=

      8. Love the roundabout in alternative A-2: It would make jumping the queue of cars stuck in Westbound I-90 traffic *much* easier ;) Just exist I-90 WB at Bellevue way, turn right, head through the roundabout, and jump back on the freeway. Bob’s your uncle…

      9. Shhhusshh. Don’t tell Starbucks. The’ll want to lease the unused spaces and trick em out for latte machines.
        Or, maybe Mini-Linkie-Daycare booths for the kids.

  5. From discussion with ST engineers a fully loaded train with 4 cars (future lenghth) will carry 600 people. ST runs 2 car trains now on Phase 1 with approximately 300 people fully loaded or about 200 people as a standard load capacity.

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