The A-2 replacement Park & Ride, image courtesy KPFF Consultants

Last night, the Bellevue City Council continued its ceaseless chase of B7, or a new revised version of the alignment.  With the absence of councilmember Chelminiak, who is still recovering from a bear attack, and Lee, an ultimate vote of 3-2 was carried out in favor of a motion that would allow the City to pursue “Phase 1” of a “revised B7” study.  The phase is just one of three, neither of which comes cheap.  The first, costing roughly $670,000 and estimated to take 6-7 months, would be a “concept report” engineering the new alignment to about 5%, the same level as all of the DEIS alternatives.  Goran Sparrman, director of Transportation, made note that Phase 1 would be similar to Sound Transit’s 112th Ave Concept Design Report.

The second phase, costing $450,000 and taking 4-6 months, would build on the first phase and contain a more detailed focus of noise impacts and an environmental review similar to that in Sound Transit’s DEIS.  Sparrman noted that this phase would have similar content to a DEIS, but could not be legally labeled one.  The third and final phase was the granddaddy of them all– costing a whopping $2.5 million over a 12-24 month work period.  Phase 3 would build on the first two phases and include geotechnical work, surveying, and finalization of alignments, all to bring engineering up to the same level as Sound Transit’s preferred B2M– roughly 15%.

You can view the study session packet here (PDF), which has more details of the phases.  The study session will be archived on Bellevue TV soon, which you can then view in its entirety.  More of the meeting below the jump.

For those not familiar with the differences between this new “revised B7” (which I’ll just call B7R to avoid confusion with B7M!) and the original B7, there are some stark contrasts:

  • The addition of a new A-2 park and ride to replace South Bellevue.  It would displace several South Enatai homes and force more complicated re-routing for connecting bus routes.   Our concerns here.
  • Eliminate a trail in the BNSF corridor to cheapen right-of-way widening, and possibly accommodate freight service on the same tracks as the B7R.
  • The possible elimination of the Wilburton Station on the current Greenbaum Furniture site, and keep the alignment running along I-405.
  • Options for a portal entrance to the C9T tunnel, considerably different than the Main Street entrance supported by ST.

One of the most striking aspects about the scope of work was the length of time it would take to get an “apples-to-apples comparison” with B2M, possibly as long as three years, a frame which Sparrman noted would grill hard against Sound Transit’s own timeline of selecting the final alignment in mid-2011.  No one councilmember leaped to endorse all three phases, each expressing personal concerns about time and cost.  Nonetheless, both councilmembers Wallace and Robertson were eager to move forward on the first phase, given the opportunity to explore a B7R that would purportedly be cheaper and attract more ridership.

In contrast, pro-B2M councilmembers Balducci and Degginger continued to ask tough questions about the necessity of pursuing a potentially pointless study.  Kevin Wallace expressed surprise at how much the three phases would include, calling it “overkill” and indicating that only the first phase would be sufficient to make accurate judgment.  Jennifer Robertson called the study money mere “pocket change” and argued that it would be a deal, considering the project’s “100-year” longevity.

After a short but rather terse discussion, the council produced an expected 3-2 vote in favor of the motion.  In reference to last week’s fiasco, councilmember Balducci then requested for a time for open discussion on the accusations of conflicts of interests, to which Mayor Davidson granted a future meeting for.  Oral communications, later accepted in the regular session, constituted exchanged barbs from both B2 and B7 supporters, ranging from matters of litigation to further accusations of conflict of interest.

The additional $670,000 in addition to the thousands already spent on East Link should be disappointing for Bellevue residents, given the state of the city’s budget.  Though Sound Transit reserves the ultimate authority over routing, the City’s wild pursuit of other alignments should be a major blow to objectively addressing the real issue driving the debate– neighborhood impacts.

89 Replies to “Bellevue Spends $670K To Initiate Study of a New “B7””

      1. It’s a slap in the face of the professionals at Sound Transit who undertook the DEIS, and to the voters who would like to see the City Council stop petulantly throwing good money after bad in a futile attempt to enforce their own wills in contravention of the Growth Management Act.

      2. bob, we’re studying this over and over and over. Eventually a decision has to be made. A new study isn’t going to prove anything.

        I’m sure you’d reject my idea to route East Link through Kent before coming back to Bellevue as expensive and wasteful. This isn’t about everyone feeling like their opinion is appreciated; it’s about the fact that money is limited resource (especially in government) and we shouldn’t waste taxpayer’s money to fund studying a line that’s about politics.

    1. Agreed.

      This whole deal smells. Don’t tell me the City of Bellevue, which is notoriously budget conscious, is blowing the better part of $1M to curry favor with maybe 200 people in Surrey Downs. There’s got to be more to this story.

  1. Bellevue just loves to carry on with this. In the end, they’ll probably have wasted millions on ‘studies’ that could’ve been directed toward the tunnel they want downtown.

      1. Kim, the Bellevue City Council’s own commissioned peer review of ST’s DEIS claimed that ST was fair and thorough in their study and rejection of B7. What work is the city of Bellevue undertaking that Sound Transit hasn’t done, besides pandering to a specific constituency at the expense of the city treasury?

        Bellevue is tilting at windmills here, throwing their relationship with Sound Transit, the prospect of a downtown tunnel, and the residents of Enatai on the chopping block.

      2. Kim, the SDEIS contains these updates, including the 405 expansion and updated noise analysis from Central Link. These changes you refer to are significant– does the B7 contingency really believe they will magically make the alignment cheaper than B2?

        City employees will be laid off, community center hours shortened, sidewalk projects cut, and meanwhile the council is throwing yet more money behind an alignment that Sound Transit is bound to ignore? Do you really feel good about that?

  2. Maybe I should move to Surrey Downs and have a little fun being “anti anti-light-rail”.

    Ok, in reality, I’m glad ST has final authority over the buffoons in my city council. We’re becoming more the laughingstock every day it seems

      1. The neighborhood did overwhelmingly vote against ST2. Nonetheless, if they are truly pro-light rail, I would like to see more rhetoric directed towards the transit-friendly merits of B7, rather than how B2 is a desecration to the quality of life in South Bellevue. I’ve seen the posts coming from ‘Build a Better Bellevue’s’ facebook page– some very snide against light rail and ST, leading me to suspect that they don’t care if ST fails.

  3. Shocking, absurd, petty, and a waste of time and resources. We already know what we need to do. And that starts with ST’s preferred alignment without the tunnel.

    1. There’s no reason to be spiteful. I do believe the people of the City of Bellevue and all East Link riders deserve a downtown Bellevue tunnel. The problem is that the City Council’s antics jeopardize that possibility. ST shouldn’t capriciously take it away from Bellevue, a majority of whose constituents voted for light rail and would like to see East Link completed.

      1. I completely understand that, but the tunnel is no infeasible without an increase in taxes by residents of Bellevue. That is not going to happen. Thus, the antics must stop and move on with the plan. The tunnel is dead.

      2. Also, I fail understand why you claim that I’m spiteful. To whom is that and how? I merely stated my reaction and stated what we should despite the spiteful actions of the Council itself to the residents of Bellevue and voters and supporters of the ST plan.

  4. “The possible elimination of the Wilburton Station on the current Greenbaum Furniture site…”

    This is the only good thing in here – Wilburton/SE 8th stations don’t have significant ridership compared to SBPR.

    They could probably reposition the bicycle trail along 118th but I seriously doubt they will – at least in a way that doesn’t just shoehorn the trail in beside an existing road.

    1. Don Davidson said something along the lines of, “why do we need a trail in the rail corridor when we already one down on 118th?”

      Because, none exists. There are nothing but lanes there, and a off-street trail would induce much more demand from cyclists and pedestrians.

      1. The trail does not go along the entire length of 118th and feeds into the on-street bike lanes. I’ve biked that corridor before and it’s pretty underutilized, not something both the County and City had in mind for its regional trail system.

      2. Ditto on biking that corridor – I used to commute on it frequently when I worked at East Base. The “trail” is windy, has tree roots pushing up the asphalt, and pops you out onto the street *going the wrong direction* is unsafe.

        There appears to be room in that corridor where Bellevue could create a well designed, safe, and pleasant trail. However, it won’t. Bellevue is all about creating bike facilities as part of a patchwork of various projects – Just look at what they had planned for 108th – 3 different designs for the three different sections between Bellevue Way and I-90.

    1. THis might be worth a thread in itself, but I would love to see a post on how the FRA and its regulations stymie passenger rail and transit in this country vs. other developed countries…

    2. The FRA and FTA will allow freight service on the line as long as there is a time buffer and no trains within the block.

      Sprinter in Oceanside, California does this and allows local freight service to run on the line when the Sprinter is not running.

      So for example, last train through the B7 block is 12:34am and the next train is at 5:40am, FTA would allow 12:40 to 5:00am to get through the the section and allow a track inspector to run over the line if warranted.

      Since freight service over the line would not be a daily thing, it would make sense to allow this to happen.

      1. Freight rail and light rail is possible on the same tracks (runs on the same guage[standard guage])with some minor design considerations to the track.

      2. Adding to Brian’s response to specifially highlight an example of freight service operating under a light rail line’s overhead contact system, RailAmerica’s San Diego & Imperial Valley shortline serves freight customers on the San Diego Trolley network.

      3. “This is correct. Freight could only run at night”

        So much for “protecting Bellevue’s neighborhoods”. I guess the folks who live along the rail line in Bellevue don’t constitute a true “neighborhood”. As far as the council is concerned, to hell with them.


      4. It’s also okay to bulldoze Enatai to build a parking garage as long as it keeps the trains outside earshot of Surrey Downs. Protecting neighborhoods…

  5. this is a shocking waste of money! Now the residents of Enatai are going to come out in full force for a showdown with Surrey.

    1. I don’t know whether you are from Bellevue are not, but you go to stop creating rivalry between two neighborhoods.
      You see benefits of A-2 Station:
      Better Traffic Level of service this means no traffic will be going into enatai neighborhood.
      Station at walking distance means easy access and more ridership.
      Right in and right out in the garage-means no queing or no traffic problems for both Bellevue way and I-90.

      1. Two of your arguments for the station placement are about traffic. To me, it sounds like those arguments aren’t in the interest of light rail.

        The “walking distance” confuses me. Walking distance to a park and ride? Is that the intent? And what about the current South Bellevue Park & Ride and the folks who live within walking distance of it?

      2. Olivia, I can perform a full GIS analysis of the walking buffers of both stations and I guarantee that the original park and ride is more accessible to a greater number of residents.

        I’m not sure what you mean that “no traffic” will be going into Enatai. The A-2 station creates a chokepoint at 113th and 30th– what about all those cars on 108th heading to the park and ride?

  6. our only hope if for ST to pick their alignment and just tell Bellevue to shut up… although that probably wouldn’t stop them either.

      1. ST can’t go with what they want without Bellevue’s co-operation.

        That is not correct. Sound Transit chooses the alignment, as they did through Tukwila.

      2. ST can’t go with what they want without Bellevue’s co-operation.

        A quick review of the Growth Management Act and Tukwila’s unsuccessful permitting obstructions will show that Sound Transit can proceed with their own preferred alignment with or without the cooperation of the City of Bellevue.

  7. What is nuts is this: First, the council kills the Enatai neighborhood program to bring sidewalks, bike paths and traffic calming on 108th for the elementary school and backs a 1,400 stall garage and station where 108th provides direct access. Second, the city NEVER notified the neighborhood this is happening. None of the houses that will be removed or those who will be across from the proposed station were made aware that a major capital facility could be built on/ next to their property. Third, Sound Transit does not even recognize this option. Mayor Davidson burned his bridge in July. ST will not look at more options. Fourth, this B7 does not even connect with the C9T tunnel! Is council going to welch on their letter with ST? Fifth, the study only gets us to 5% EIS. This is not “apples to apples” with the work done on other alignments. Sixth, when will it end? If the first phase comes back unworkable does that mean that Council will finally give in? Is there a B7-modified-adjusted-tweaked version still out there that we have not looked at? Here’s a clue: the reason for so few B7 options was because they didn’t work! ST looked at dozens of possible options before getting to the ones that were viable. Seven, didn’t councils own studies of the ST work say that they were in fact accurate and in line with what was delivered? I could do this all day long….. B7 is so flawed….

  8. It’s amazing that the city council considers Surrey Downs houses more important than Enatai houses. Chop down some houses in order to reroute the line away from other houses.

    And why move the park & ride? Can’t they build the garage on the existing P&R site?

    And if Bellevue can find $3.6 million for a realignment, why is it having trouble finding money for the downtown tunnel?

      1. This sounds like the same comment from Kim Durham above, it even has the same grammar mistake. Is this just a canned response from the “Build a Better Bellevue” troupe?

  9. I agree with most of the bloggers and commenters here. Local cities should be deferential and submissive to Sound Transit. Sound Transit knows best. Sound Transit are experts at designing light rail routes. Just look at their first one, Central Link. You have to give them an A+ on that one, right?

    1. The law isn’t that cities “should” be submissive, it’s that the Sound Transit board has the final say. I don’t know if Central Link should get an A+ or not, but I like our light rail line and it’s certainly given the agency more expertise than Mr. Wallace.

  10. Can a moderator check the IP on the comments from Kim, Mark, Olivia, and Tram? They have a remarkably simliar set of gramatical tics. I’m all for open discussion with differing viewpoints on B7 but I call shenanigans on these being multiple people.

    1. Yep: bob, mark, Kinder, Bellevuetrans, Kim durham, Tram, and Olivia all have the same IP address. I’m going to moderate their posts now. While I value the views of those close to the process, this is unacceptable.

      1. I will add that we welcome comments from anyone, whether from ST or Build a Better Bellevue. But commenting under the guise of many will not be tolerated.

  11. We live in the edge of the downtown Bellevue.We use transit a lot in our daily life.
    We are very much concerned about the East Link light rail project.
    We would like to have all our comments under the name kim durham.
    We do not represent any organization or group. All are our personal comments.

    1. All of the comments came from the same Internet connection and have the same writing style. I’m skeptical you are more than one person.

    2. If there are truly six of you, it would have been more convincing if you all posted from separate connections and didn’t all comment at the same time.

    3. Did Kim,bob, mark,Tram, Olivia, kinder ever say anything substantial? All they say is “we use transit” and “we’re concerned about East Link”. That doesn’t say anything about whether they like it or what they’d want changed.

  12. What a waste of money! This is a kill by delay attempt. Light rail sucks, it’s noisy, doesn’t have the capacity of Heavy rail and expensive to run. However given that is the technology we are building, it should be connected to Bellevue and Redmond and that means a Bellevue downtown tunnel. And it’s going to impact some neighborhoods that it goes through both positively and negatively. Surrey Downs is going to be noisier but will have better transit access. Get over it. And use this money to build the downtown tunnel.

    1. “Light rail sucks, it’s noisy, doesn’t have the capacity of Heavy rail and expensive to run.”

      Go stand under the L.

      1. Thirded! I just got off the Red Line a half hour ago and I was thinking Geez these trains are noisy!

        Unlike Central Link which spooked me out one time at the Rainier Beach station as I was waiting to cross the street. I heard the train bell on my left which turned out to be from a speaker on a post, and then it went by from my right, right in front of me and I didn’t hear it approaching until it was right by me.

      2. Or on the 30th floor of a skyscraper in the Loop and still be able to hear AND feel the L going by.

  13. So here’s my question.
    Does the “new” B7 deal with any of the issues of the original B7? Those issues were, IIRC:
    *lower projected ridership
    *longer travel time
    *more expensive
    *clumsy bus connection

    Any improvement on some of those counts?
    If not, Bellevue is throwing good money after bad on this.

    1. Some of questions don’t require more study, but are just common sense:

      – The ridership will be the one we don’t know, because of the new park-and-ride. However, since driving access is similar but walking/biking harder, I would say it will be less than B2M. Furthermore, there is no SE 8th Station for this B7R.
      – Possibly longer. Dwell time for stopping at the A-2 Station will increase travel times.
      – Definitely more expensive. This is the length of B7 plus a greater park and ride, even if the Wilburton Station is not built. The A-2 P&R is larger, requires numerous property displacements, requires new traffic flow infrastructure, and sits on complicated terrain.
      – Even more complicated. If you look at the diagram, current routes must now loop around, through the traffic circle, into the garage, circle back around, and come back out. With the new South Bellevue station, routes need only to turn in, circle around the bay, and turn out.

      So no, no real improvement.

      1. There is a part of me that really does want to quantify all this, though, so that we can point at the numbers (generated by Bellevue’s own consultants) and be able to say that B7 just isn’t as cost-effective as the preferred alignment, or is prohibitively expensive, or both.

        Then the realistic part of me remembers that that probably won’t matter; it’ll probably just lead to calls for more information and more studies. And as a Bellevue resident, I’d much rather spend this money on other priorities in the Capital Improvement Plan, not on more studies that tell us things we pretty much already know.

  14. Tell me why a light rail line that can’t meet ridership minimums without huge investments in P&R lots (i.e. free parking to go to DT Seattle) can possibly be a good idea? A-2 == loser (130th P&R the Biggest Loser). “Eliminating” a trail that doesn’t exist… irrelevant. Elimination of the Wilburton Station on the current Greenbaum Furniture site == winner! This was a stupid idea designed to make B7 look bad from the get go. Pick the biggest (only) major new commercial building in the area and claim that it needs to be bulldozed to use this alignment and then claim that the B7 alignment has low ridership because of a stupid station location (although interestingly system ridership was virtually unaffected). This alone is enough to prove ST didn’t do a good faith assessment and why the City is now being left to try and correct ST’s egregious errors.

    Options for a portal entrance to the C9T tunnel, considerably different than the Main Street entrance

    Yeah, one of the major flaws with ST’s plan is how it screws up Main. If they’d agreed to the council compromise (prior to the last election which put B7 supporters solidly in the majority) of keeping S. Bell. P&R and jogging the additional distance over to 405 to come in at a point that didn’t totally screw over the southern edge of DT this whole thing might be over. That, btw was an alignment Balducci, Degginger and Chelminiak all claimed to support. That “support”, like their claimed support for neighborhoods, seems to be rather fickle.

    1. And the Wilburton Station was supposed to go where on the original B7? And if St didn’t go what you call a “good faith assessment,” then how come the City is swooning over more study of B1?

      What’s fickle is the support of Lee, Davidson, Wallace, and Robertson for protecting neighborhoods. I guess those that need homes displaced by massive garages don’t count!

      1. And the Wilburton Station was supposed to go where on the original B7?

        Greenbaums Furniture as I remember… do you recall differently?

        how come the City is swooning over more study of B1?

        Had to go back to the book to remember what B1 was. How is the majority postion of the council you are at odds with swooning over the Bellevue Way alternative?

        What’s fickle is the support of Lee, Davidson, Wallace, and Robertson for protecting neighborhoods. I guess those that need homes displaced by massive garages don’t count!

        Wallace and Robertson are new so it’s hard to be “fickle” when you have no record. If they’re voted out after a single term then so be it. Lee and Davidson have consistently worked with our neighborhood (Bridle Trails) and while nobody agrees on every issue they have continued to receive support for the concern and value they deliver back to our community.

        B7 as you seem to be unwilling to accept, didn’t have low ridership. There was projected lower segment ridership but system ridership was virtually unchanged.

        The basic premise remains:

        Tell me why a light rail line that can’t meet ridership minimums without huge investments in P&R lots (i.e. free parking to go to DT Seattle) can possibly be a good idea?

        Go back to my post, “A-2 == lose”; spending billions on light rail to increase traffic in Bellevue is just stupid.

  15. Could it be that the new B7 is just a straw dog? To be perfected in order to trade away for widening Bellevue Way? How will Surrey Downs and the anti-B3 folks feel when the Council majority ‘compromises’ with Sound Transit in ‘good faith’, in exchange for a wider (i.e., new west-side southbound lane) Bellevue Way? When they do, and the line continues up 112th, I suppose they’ll feel used.

  16. Doesn’t anyone here believe in democracy? If the people of Bellevue don’t want transit on 112th and have a feasible alternative, for God’s sake, let them have it!

    1. Perhaps it’s not just about the Surrey Downs neighborhood but the needs of the whole sub-area and the region come into play.

      And it’s also not just about the WANTS of a rich developer who thinks he can buy a political process.

      1. Charles,

        We can make all sorts of rational arguments about how Link of 112th is faster, better, cooler. But the truth is, in a democracy the people are sovereign, even when they’re wrong.

        From a “regional” perspective a relocated SB P’n’R is only slightly less desirable than the current location, and it’s absolutely certain that the trains will be able to run faster between it and Main Street via B7 than alongside 112th.

        So what’s the great “regional” problem. I just don’t see it.

        What I DO see is that Puget Sound “got on the train” after it was full and the new conductor doesn’t want to honor the tickets of the passengers already aboard.

        I doubt Link will ever go beyond Bel-Square, Northgate and Sea-Tac.

        When oil gasoline is six or eight dollars per gallon — soon — people will be carpooling whether they want to or not. The roads will be much quicker as a result so the mooted advantages of separated quideway transit will be lessened.

        Sure, more people will TRY to use transit, but it’s pretty much at capacity in the peak hours now so they’ll have to make carpooling arrangements. Express buses will certainly perform better in the lighter traffic.

      2. From a “regional” perspective a relocated SB P’n’R is only slightly less desirable than the current location,

        An engorged P&R in South Bellevue is undesirable under any plan. This A-2 crap is ridiculous. It will cost more, a lot more than ST’s over priced “preferred alternative” so it makes B7 look even worse. Note; preferred alternative just means it’s the best of a list of bad choices. ST is in the business of spending tax dollars (otherwise their jobs go away). “None of the above” is never listed as one of the choices even though in most cases it’s the right answer.

  17. Bottom Line: 118th (adjacent to I-405) is already a “transit corridor”. 112th is not! Locating light rail down a parkway versus adjacent to a transit corridor is not what I would call a preferred alternative for a light rioal alignment.

    1. Huh? What transit exists today on 118th SE. I tried using the trip planner to get from Wilburton P&R to Factoria. Two of the three routings had me going first to BTC. The third used Lake Hills Connector and then meandered over to Eastgate P&R.

      1. Correct, there is no bus route on 118th. Plus it bypasses Factoria entirely, eventually turning into Coal Creek Parkway.

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