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.