On Tuesday Monday night, the Bellevue City Council met once again to continue ongoing East Link discussion, albeit mostly revolving around the B7/BNSF route. Oral communications were taken initially with comments from Will Knedlik, a longtime Sound Transit critic, and three other citizens who more or less testified against the City continuing to pursue B7. Knedlik did not talk specifically about East Link, but urged Bellevue to take the lead on subarea equity in refunding $350 million of prematurely issued bonds which would ultimately scrape more money into the East subarea. The real fireworks did not start until council discussion, which is below the jump.
The study session was potentially one of the most divisive and heated discussions about East Link to date. It was quickly revealed that the study session packet’s (PDF) “scope of work” (Attachment 9) originally intended to act as a framework for discussion was actually part of a larger proposal submitted by Bill Popp, a longtime critic of Sound Transit. Both John Chelminiak and Grant Degginger, pro-B2 councilmembers, became visibly frustrated at the idea of outside consultants writing the study session packet materials, let alone transit foes.
When Degginger asked who specifically requested the proposal, it turned out that Kevin Wallace had been in “ongoing discussion” with Popp. Part of Popp’s proposal also included a letter, which also happened to mention a Jim MacIsaac, who some of you may know has been a blatant opponent of light rail. Neither Popp nor MacIsaac’s names were mentioned in the “scope of work” that was ultimately included in the study session packet, causing both John Chelminiak and Claudia Balducci to question why the identity of those individuals were not revealed.
For the rest of the study session, the pro-B2 councilmembers continued to express concerns about the “scope of work” ultimately leading to Degginger’s questioning of whether or not the alignment in question was still B7. Several elements of the alignment include:
- Addition of A-2 Park & Ride (our concerns here)
- Possible suspension bridge over Mercer Slough in place of pile-supported bridge
- Elimination of a BNSF corridor trail to make B7 easier to construct
- Potential accommodation of future freight service
None of these concerns were addressed directly, as the pro-B7 councilmembers simply continued to either praise the idea of B7 (avoiding neighborhoods) or desire further study. By far, councilmembers Balducci, Chelminiak, and Degginger had the most substantive questions regarding the “scope of work,” many of which went unanswered.
Degginger continued to ask how much an “apples to apples” comparison would cost in bringing up B7 to B2m level engineering. City Manager Steve Sarkozy answered that a basic adoption of the scope of work would cost roughly $200k, whereas a full advancement of engineering would cost up to $3 million and potentially 9 months work. That’s neither time nor money the City has.
Despite the tentativeness of information and discussion, the Mayor ultimately called for a vote of a motion that would instruct the staff to come back with scope of work that looks at “B7-C9T with modifications that would improve ridership, analyze cost, look at the A-2 station, move the alignment east off the Greenbaum site, eliminate that station, run along frontage road with at-grade and elevated options, with a tunnel portal at Sheraton if at-grade or at 111th Ave if elevated.”
The motion passed 4-3, along the same lines as previous votes.
Whether or not the council pursues further study may not matter, considering that the City is using information prepared by individuals known to oppose Sound Transit. Should the agency take it as a slap in the face, the City will likely lose its chance of getting the C9T tunnel, the only thing the council unanimously agrees on. Bellevue only has $270K remaining in its East Link study fund, precious money that could be well spent on mitigation efforts over fantasy alignments that will likely not happen.