[Update at 4:55 pm: The Board unanimously approved the motion and picked options 2 and 6 (all options here), west-side running alignments that would either feed into an at-grade downtown segment or a tunnel.  Bellevue mayor Don Davidson did not withhold his stiff criticism from ST prior to the decision.]

The Sound Transit Board is expected today to approve new preferred alignments for South Bellevue. The two options would run along the east or the west side of 112th Ave. As of 3:30, readers can stream the board meeting here — the 112th Ave decision is on the agenda (item 8B).

The Bellevue City Council earlier rejected considering any of the six 112th Ave alignments, but Sound Transit will almost certainly approve one of the alignments on that road. More backstory on the six options here.

86 Replies to “Sound Transit Board Expected to Approve 112th”

  1. Is there any streaming option for those of us who do not have Windows Media Player or run an operating system that can support it?

  2. After Don Davidson presented the B7 letter to the board, Julia Patterson asked him: [paraphrased] When the voters of the region voted for ST2, they did not vote for a tunnel in downtown Bellevue. Are you telling us that you want both B7 and a tunnel? To which Don answered “yes”.

    Incredible… Just incredible… For a “fiscal conservative”, Don, and the council majority, sure don’t seem to be willing to do anything other than come up with even more expensive options.

    1. What do you expect from a dentist? They’re professionals at inflicting pain and charging you for it.

      1. You’ll be glad they put it underground ten years from now. Just imagine the mess if they had decided to build it at-grade!

    2. They had to add the tunnel later, otherwise rail-haters would get selfish with their money and ruin Seattle’s chance in ever completing a massive rapid transit and rail network.

  3. I am having a heck of a problem following which alignment we’re now talking about.

    I know that you all want to stay neutral(ish) – but would it be possible for you to label alignment with a good/bad rating? Tunnel-bad, surface-good, 112th is good? Or bad?

    1. The majority on the Bellevue City Council wants “B7” which runs next to 405. B2 is Sound Transit’s preferred alignment which goes up Bellevue Way, servicing a station at South Bellevue Park & Ride, and then heads up 112th Ave SE to the various downtown options which are part of the “C” alignments. Of the options on 112th, which you can read about here, the board is poised to choose the “Westside” option number 2.

    2. Allison, my belief is that any 112th option is better than B7. The important part here is that the board would again be moving forward on an option that isn’t B7.

      1. I should clarify. Not if the funding was found, but if the funding gap to finance a tunnel was there.

    3. Let me chime in as a Bellevue resident who is not so Surrey Downs/Kemper Freemon biased:

      B7 is specifically designed to take people AWAY from Downtown Bellevue (search this blog for “Vision Line”) to avoid the NIMBY people of Surrey Downs

      Going up Bellevue Way, with a stop at the existing South Bellevue Park & Ride would allow, for example, someone from Issaquah to take the 554 to Bellevue and transfer to the Link into Downtown Seattle or Downtown Bellevue.

      I’m one of those loud “please raise my taxes to pay for a tunnel” supporters and thus would gain from being able to take the 230 to Bellevue Transit Center and ride an elevator down to the Link station and get where I need.

      1. The B segment covers South Bellevue, it doesn’t affect downtown. B7 (along I-405 in the BNSF right of way) could chosen with a C segment that serves downtown Bellevue. This is in fact what the Bellevue City Council wants. The Vision Line is an alternative that covers B an C segments and follow B7 then stay along 405, bypassing Downtown Bellevue.

      2. “The B segment covers South Bellevue, it doesn’t affect downtown. ”

        Yes, but the extra cost of B7 over B2M would probably put a downtown tunnel out of reach. The mayor wants the most expensive of both options, and wants to chip in as little as possible for it. If they want a tunnel downtown then they need to accept the B segment that’s the most affordable. All of the options have trade offs, and none of them have a clear majority of citizen support. The mayor needs to understand that and quit playing hardball with Sound Transit on behalf of Surrey Downs. He’s not doing a good job of representing the interests of all the residents of South Bellevue and I think people are starting (hopefully) to see through him.

      3. Most of us who ride the 230 to work at Microsoft every day “voted for the other guy” (or at least once they realized that this Council was bought and paid for by Kemper) :)

      4. The Vision Line is dead, right? It would have gone north along 405, two blocks east of the Transit Center, and feature a moving sidewalk going west to the TC (and further to the mall?).

        The current B7+C proposals go out the BNSF tracks near 405, then come back to the Transit center.

        I’m not hotly opposed to B7. It does the main job of connecting BTC and beyond with Seattle. But it loses the secondary benefit of a convenient transfer point for people east or south of I-90.

  4. The ST council is going to approve carrying forward options 2 and 6 for the 112th Ave corridor. Both of these options are on the west side of 112th Ave. Option 2 will connect at Main St. to a tunnel under 110th Ave. Option 6 will connect at Main St to a surface route along 108th Ave. The main reason that ST will continue to move forward on a surface route (option 6) is that ST does not have the funding to build the tunnel and Bellevue hasn’t legally committed to funding the tunnel nor identified the source of the funds, so the surface option will advance both to ensure that Bellevue provides the funds for a tunnel, or to be the alternative if Bellevue doesn’t do so.

    For the Hospital station, it looks like they are going to approve Alternative A, which is adjacent to NE 8th St, but on the north side. Personally, I wish they would also consider Alternative B, which would have the station span NE 8th St and have exits on both sides of the street. There are probably some additional costs with that, but it would provide better access to the currently under-used land south of NE 8th which is primed for redevelopment, as well as to buses on both sides of NE 8th St. ST staff says that Alternative A is cheaper and that plans for a trail on the BNSF corridor include a bridge over NE 8th. However it could well be that riders would have to drop down from an ST station to surface grade on NE 8th and then go back up again to a pederstrian crossing of NE 8th. It would seem that the right time to address pedestrian access from the ST station to the south side of NE 8th would be at the time of station design, rather than hoping some other agency will do a good job.

    1. The ST board passed the motion on a unanimous voice vote – to move forward with Options 2 and 6 on the 112th Ave alignment and Hospital Station choice A.

      This wasn’t a vote for B2 over B7, per-se, but the choice of how to move B2 forward. They promise a deliberation of B2 vs. B7 later.

    2. One of the reasons the board chose A over B was because the King County trail planned on the BNSF corridor would likely have a grade separated crossing for peds and bikes. This overpass/underpass would serve the same purpose but with less cost and risk to ST.

  5. Sometimes I think that no one on the city council has even seen the old BNSF ROW in person. I went for a walk out there the other day, it’s narrow, has steep hills on both sides, and only about 4000 feet of it is usable because it dead ends where they tore out the Wilburton tunnel. The rest of the way the tracks will have to be shoehorned between the freeway and 118th Ave. It’s hardly a tailor-made solution like some on the city council want people to believe.

      1. Right, but the roadbed that’s there is only one track wide. I guess my point is that a lot of the B7 supporters make a huge assumption about the suitability of the old BNSF ROW for light rail without really knowing what’s there. It’s like finding an old logging road and saying its a great place to put a freeway.

      2. Whoah whoah. Huge difference. Vancouver = two major destinations during global event. BNSF = out of the way any day.

    1. I guess ST never looked at it either.

      The corridor can accommodate both the trail and light rail route in most places, with some areas requiring a small right-of-way acquisition (Exhibit 2-24).

      No shoe horning required. The plan was to leave the BNSF ROW and use 118th.

      Once inside the BNSF right-of-way, B7 transitions to at-grade until the BNSF right-of-way turns east over I-405, at which point B7 becomes elevated, veers west, and crosses 118th Avenue SE to the 118th Street Station south of SE 8th Street.

      I think an alternate to build a bridge across the SB lanes of 405 (which I think WSDOT agreed to pay for in exchange for the right to sever the ROW) should have been looked at. That would reconnect the trail and Link could run up the median of 405 avoiding all of the noise and neighborhood impacts before crossing back at SE 8th. One station that split the difference between East Main and Wilburton would be well place to serve the entire area. Especially if connected via a pedestrian bridge to the east side of 405 (the south end of the old Auto Row).

      1. Guess what, freeways are the new rivers; where the transportation demand is. Parking garage hater? FREE parking garage hater, yes! If you have to gin up ridership with multi-story parking garages where you get to drive and park for free then it’s obvious the entire concept is dubious. When you locate those free indoor parking spaces inside one of the most congested areas then it’s just plain stupid; it’s creating congestion. Put Link on a rail diet and get the project extended out to 202.

      2. The problem with using freeways at transit corridors is you need to provide some way for people to access it. Only in rare cases are the areas of high transit demand built right up against the freeway. Even then the center of the area which would attract the most ridership tends to be off the highway corridor a bit. The choices are to have transit leave the highway to serve the area of transit demand or provide some way for riders to get to the highway in the form of park & rides or local bus service.

        If you slap a rail line in along a highway without providing park & rides or connecting transit service you end up with a low-ridership rail line that hardly justifies the expense.

        I will agree that some sort of charge should be instituted at any P&R that exceeds 95% midday occupancy on a regular basis. The price should be set at whatever is necessary to bring the lot down to 95% occupancy midday. I’d continue to allow people with disabled permits, vanpools, or motorcycles to park for free.

        In the specific case of East Link I don’t think even if it had been kept in freeway ROW all the way between Seattle and Overlake that it would save enough money to allow segment E to be built in ST2. Even then you’d lose a ton of ridership by not serving the markets South and East of the 90/405 interchange, and by poorly serving downtown Bellevue (one of the densest areas of the Eastside). A Wilburton station is no substitute for the S. Bellevue P&R, any B7 station will be difficult for both transit and SOV drivers to access which will depress ridership.

        Similarly, while the ridership figures aren’t much different, I hope an alignment along 15th NE between Northgate and Montlake Terrace is chosen rather that one along I-5. Aurora/99 would be even better but is unlikely due to cost and added travel time (besides it would make it hard to build a second Seattle to Everett line along 99 at some point in the future).

      3. The idea isn’t that you have to keep the ROW inside the freeway or that the stations have to be next to the freeway. What I’m saying is that the predominant flow of goods and services is along the freeways. Like it or not that’s how the development has been shaped. If you ignore that reality you’re building an urban renewal project like RV. Bellevue doesn’t need any help spurring development. If anything the real estate boom/bust would indicate the opposite.

      4. Bernie: “Guess what, freeways are the new rivers; where the transportation demand is.”

        Zed: “Huh?”

        Guess what, subways are the freeways in cities without freeways in the core. Vancouver, NYC, London, Moscow, St Petersburg. Maybe also Toronto, which has a freeway alongside downtown but none north-south. In all these cities, people say the subway is “the fastest way to get around”. (Less so for Vancouver’s SkyTrain, which serves only part of the city.)

        Bernie: “FREE parking garage hater, yes! If you have to gin up ridership with multi-story parking garages where you get to drive and park for free then it’s obvious the entire concept is dubious.”

        We don’t know what effect a P&R fee would have because it has never been done, to my knowledge. It would be worth an experiment at a few P&Rs with a low fee (say 50c or $1) to see what happens. Or maybe somehow a variable fee to determine what the optimal level is. But it has to be low enough that the fee plus roundtrip fare isn’t excessive, especially not more expensive than driving. (Another factor: Seattle has expensive parking but most suburban destinations have free parking.)

        Bernie: “The predominant flow of goods and services is along the freeways.”

        True. We need to serve the major destinations where they are. A few expansion stations are good (Othello, Bel-Red), but they should not be the majority. Because you may build the station and the development won’t happen, and the existing places will still be underserved for transit.

        Chris Stefan: “The price should be set at whatever is necessary to bring the lot down to 95% occupancy midday.”

        That’s assuming the current size of the P&R is the optimal size. But that’s putting the cart before the horse. The purpose of P&Rs is to make transit possible for low-density residential areas with minimal or no bus service. We want those people to use the P&Rs. If we turn them away with fees or full P&Rs, they’ll drive instead, which is the opposite of our goal. When we install comprehensive transit in these neighborhoods, then we can dismantle the P&Rs. But there’s a serious question whether we can ever afford to run frequent buses in the deep residential areas, or whether transit will just have to abandon them. In that case, P&Rs are the only choice.

      5. We don’t know what effect a P&R fee would have because it has never been done, to my knowledge.

        It’s true that it’s very hard to forecast the effect on demand when you start charging for something that was free. Put out a bowl of candy at a trade show and people walking by will snatch it up. Try to sell candy and there’s no takers. We’ve seen huge increases in ridership on SLUT during times it was free. I suspect you’d see the inverse with Tacoma Link if you started to charge regular fares. P&R charges are a little different. First, it’s not really free but an added service included in your fare. Fare increases haven’t seen people abandoning buses in large numbers. Second, we have plenty of examples to draw on with parking that has gone from free to charging a fare. BART tried it and it was very successful. A key was the ability to actually look at the usage for various lots and pre-pay to reserve a slot via phone. We could also look at Marymoor park where the County started charging a buck for parking. Maybe some people stop going to the park (or stopped driving to the park but at $1 it didn’t really effect demand. $5 and I bet you’d start to see baseball and soccer leagues finding other places to play.

        it has to be low enough that the fee plus roundtrip fare isn’t excessive, especially not more expensive than driving. (Another factor: Seattle has expensive parking but most suburban destinations have free parking.)

        Less expensive than driving and parking. DT Bellevue is just about as expensive as DT Seattle for parking during business hours. That doesn’t apply to Bell Square but there’s also free parking for shoppers at Westlake Mall. The major destination for commuters is DT Seattle. DT Bellevue is a distant second. Charging for lots that are over capacity will help even out usage. System wide we have an excess of P&R spaces. It makes no sense to be spending 30-40k building multi story garages. Providing more spaces close in will further erode usage at the out lying lots and increase VMT and congestion at the worst choke points. It’s just unbelievable that nobody in county government or Metro has proposed parking fees to help close the budget deficit. It must be because the notion is so ingrained that the only way to balance a budget is to increase taxes and the best way to pass a tax increase is to cut services that people want (doesn’t do any good to cut services most people don’t want to pay for).

      6. On a serious note, you say ST didn’t look at it either. The DEIS pretty much engineered B7 to 5%, the same as the other alternatives at the time. The City of Bellevue, which happens to love B7, decides to look at it some more. The independent consultant said what? That renovating the BNSF right-of-way would not only require extensive grading and shoring, but retaining walls and the widening of the ROW for double tracks plus catenary. He sounded very tentative about B7.

      7. I have no doubt that it can be done, I just think it requires a lot more work than some people who support it think. People talk about it like the ROW heads right into downtown and ST could just throw down some tracks and be on the way. When in reality less than a mile of the ROW is actually useful.

        “I think an alternate to build a bridge across the SB lanes of 405 (which I think WSDOT agreed to pay for in exchange for the right to sever the ROW) should have been looked at. That would reconnect the trail and Link could run up the median of 405 avoiding all of the noise and neighborhood impacts before crossing back at SE 8th.”

        Yes, that probably would have been a prudent idea, better than running it down 118th. Why didn’t you run for city council?

      8. No desire to become a politician. I did throw my hat in the ring the last time a position on the Transportation Commission was open and made it as far as the interview process. Scott Lampe was chosen and I think he’s got the experience to do the job better than I. I still like to attend the meetings.

        The most distressing part of B7 is the WSDOT report in the study commissioned by the COB. Building across the slough in the I-90 corridoor demands more than the concrete pier construction I-90 has used. A rail bridge is much narrower than a freeway bridge and the narrower the more susceptible to displacement the structure is to the flow of the peat. I thought going across a 30+ year old sinking bridge was stupid enough already. Even with the Bellevue Way alignment they’re relying on the EB HOV ramp which is held together with bailing wire and duct tape. You have to wonder too about the building of a four story parking garage in the swamp. SE 8th was plagued with problems and the entire side running alignment in the wetlands buffer will be in a similar situation.

      9. “You have to wonder too about the building of a four story parking garage in the swamp.”

        Maybe it will become an underground garage eventually.

      10. Bernie, B2A will use its own elevated guideway coming off I-90, so no need to use the existing ramps.

      11. Zed: “Maybe it will become an underground garage eventually.”

        Then you have to worry about building below the water table and the pumping systems which will be necessary to prevent the structure from flooding like a leaky basement.

  6. Two ST Board members (Julia Patterson was one, I didn’t catch the other) expressed some serious concerns about Bellevue’s willingness to continue working constructively with ST, especially as it relates to the C-segment tunnel. They were very concerned by Bellevue Mayor Davidson’s presentation, considering the ST Board had “bent over backwards” (Patterson’s words) to make the tunnel possible.

    The potential for this was pointed out at Monday’s Bellevue City Council meeting, but ignored by the majority. This bears watching going forward; you’d have to be dead to not sense the bad feelings.

      1. It was. He was not happy with the wishy-washy and borderline petulant response Davidson provided when asked about Bellevue’s financial commitment to the tunnel.

      2. There were three members. Joe Marine, the mayor of Mukilteo, let Davidson have it with both barrels, essentially taking offense at the demagoguery and saying the kind of parochialism displayed by Bellevue is exactly why we have a regional board making these decisions.

    1. Yeah, Davidson didn’t help the cause for a tunnel by chastising a board from which he still needs a huge favor. Might curry favor with the few voters in Surrey Downs, but at what cost?

    2. I recall reading what Sound Transit’s authority to act in this matter is and it supersedes Bellevue’s. What I hope does not occur is any continued obstruction in the form of bureaucratic requirements for engineering permits, or other mitigation requirements that could delay or add substantial costs to the plan. Does anyone know what SoundTransit’s options would be in the face of that?

      1. That’s my understanding, too. I recall that regional/state agencies have the legal authority to override local zoning decisions if it is for a project of regional importance. In Sound Transit’s case, I hope they exercise that authority if Bellevue opposes them on a B2 alignment. However, I worry that WashDOT might use that same authority to overrule Seattle with regards to an Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement. We have a tunnel agreement in place now, but my concern is that if the tunnel gets axed, the State Legislature will just force a bigger elevated Viaduct on the Waterfront. I’ve never understood why surface proponents are so confident that McGinn has the political muscle to force the State into accepting a surface option.

      2. Huh? What surface proponents are you talking about? McGinn is now just trying to get the state to agree that they will pay for the tunnel. Surface is dead at this point.

    3. Jason, you’re being kind. As I watched it, I felt like the majority of the ST board was ready to order up Bellevue City Council’s heads on a platter. Several thinly veiled threats were issued towards continued tunnel engineering funding. Several board members, Richard Conlin most notably, talked about toys they asked ST for [First Hill Station] and didn’t get. Julia Patterson was very upset.

      This may be exactly what the majority wants: Can’t get what you want? Well then, pick a nasty fight so you can be seen as Bellevue’s David taking on Sound Transit’s Goliath.

      1. Oh yeah I know, I’m just trying to sound reasonable here =) There were more than several board members who noted their displeasure at being lectured by Mayor Davidson. I found Conlin’s comment very interesting too; he so much as told Bellevue to shut up. Claudia Balducci is really caught in an awkward position; she very clearly understands the tradeoffs of the various alignment options and her role as a ST board member, but the Bellevue City Council is being ridiculous and yet she has to maintain a working relationship with them. I could sense that even she is fed up; she just can’t say so.

        I’m with you on the David vs. Goliath approach. I don’t actually consider the members of the Bellevue City Council to be dumb, or even uninformed. I think that while they have different agendas, they very clearly know what effect their actions have, at least as it relates to the B segment. I do, however, question whether they all understand the tradeoff mentioned up above in the comments, about how getting B7 essentially precludes C9T (the downtown tunnel) due to cost. Mayor Davidson, especially, seems to think he can have his cake and eat it too.

        For anyone looking to see a massive contrast in governance, leadership, and overall vision, watch the replay of the Bellevue City Council meeting on Monday night, then watch the Sound Transit Board meeting (once it gets posted). It’s like night and day.

      2. Also: Pete Von Reichbauer seemed to bail out Don a bit. Right after a couple of people had laid into Don after his initial comments, Herr Von Reichbauer moved to end discussion. After a quick pause, somebody else seconded the motion. I suppose they all just wanted to get going on the agenda, but I’m sure a couple of board members would have enjoyed taking a few more verbal shots at Don. At least that’s how I saw it…

      3. I think PVR probably had a plane to Palm Springs to catch. I wouldn’t give him any lofty motives.

  7. So, as someone who has no short-term memory (and not much long-term either)and doesn’t know much about the eastside, which alignment is this? Should we be happy or sad?

  8. I wasn’t able to see the meeting is there anyway of watching it again or at least be a able to read the board minutes?

  9. Interesting fact: I learned at the open house for these options last week at Bellevue City Hall that they are talking about creating a short pedestrian tunnel from the north end of the Downtown Bellevue tunnel station to NE 6th to connect directly with the Transit Center. That solves one of my only problems with the newer tunnel plans.

  10. I think ST should run the line directly into Bellevue Square, and then start a program for low-income people to ride free. That would show Kemper :-)

    1. How about giving low-income people a gift card to Bellevue Square as well as a free round-trip ride?

      It would boost ridership! :)

  11. The Bellevue City Council meeting that didn’t affect anything or make any decisions got a mile-long blow-by-blow live article, but Sound Transit’s meeting, where they finally completed their entire EL Preferred Alignment only got a couple teeny paragraphs?

    ST totally got cheated…

    :)

  12. So Sound Transit laid down for Tukwila, but won’t for Bellevue?

    Some of the “transportation experts” on this blog have said Central Link bypassed Southcenter because Tukwila didn’t want it routed there. But now that Bellevue is saying where they want East Link to run, Sound Transit is basically ignoring their wishes.

    So which is it, STB “experts,” do local cities dictate to ST where Link is routed through their cities, or don’t they?

    1. I think it pretty obviously comes down to money. If the city’s wishes can be realized within the project budget and aren’t significantly detrimental to ridership, Sound Transit should and I think does accommodate them.

      I’m not familiar with the history of the Tukwila/Southcenter situation, but it does seem like it would be expensive/difficult/slow to hit Southcenter on the way to the airport, despite the obvious benefits of having a station there.

      1. (The implication being, if it isn’t obvious, that Bellevue’s wishes can’t be realized within the project budget and are detrimental to ridership.)

    2. “Some of the “transportation experts” on this blog have said Central Link bypassed Southcenter because Tukwila didn’t want it routed there.”

      You’ve got it backwards. Try again.

    3. The short answer is “No, they don’t.”

      Tukwila very badly wanted Link to go to Southcenter, but did not want it on International Blvd, which was ST’s preferred alignment. ST didn’t want to make the detour to Southcenter for travel time and cost reasons. So after negotiation, we got the freeway alignment, whose only real redeeming feature is that it is quick to the airport.

      The Seattle City Council voted unanimously to send a letter to Sound Transit asking that the First Hill station be built. But the First Hill station isn’t being built. The ST Board decided it wasn’t in the region’s best interest because it likely would’ve made U-Link too costly to build due to engineering risk, which then means you can’t build North Link (to Northgate), making the system much less useful.

      What you are seeing in Bellevue is the same thing; ST has specific places it wants to serve (South Bellevue Park & Ride, downtown Bellevue, and Overlake), and a tight budget. I’m sure ST would prefer to have more money so there are more financially-feasible alignments (that might make the Bellevue City Council happier), but they don’t and so there aren’t.

      Keep in mind that ST is tasked with building a regional mass transportation system, and serving certain places; they promised this to the voters, who voted for ST2 by sizable majorities. ST cannot just throw up their hands and call the project off.

    4. Downtown Bellevue is a major destination with massive retail, employers and lots of potential residents.

    5. Many on the ST board wanted Link to go to Southcenter, but the added cost was prohibitive to the budget and Tukwila pushed the current alignment instead because they were more obsessed with fighting a Pac Hwy South alignment.

      Tukwila made a huge mistake and ST wasn’t as strong then. But at least we get to the airport faster…

    1. For most Seattle Times commenters, between ST and Bellevue, the lesser of the two evils is ST.

  13. I’m thrilled that it’ll be grade-separated. But it MUST be built underground downtown, remember we’re build rapid transit… not another streetcar.

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