Modifications and additions in the East Link SDEIS

Yesterday afternoon, the Sound Transit Capital Committee met to hear a presentation (PDF) on the release of East Link’s Supplemental Draft Environment Impact Statement (SDEIS).  Since the release of the original DEIS in December of 2008, a number of new alternatives and modifications have been proposed, including four new downtown alignments (C9A, C11A, C9T, C14E), a significantly modified B3 alignment, B2M, and a modified D2A. There aren’t very many surprises in the SDEIS, outside of what we’ve already discovered in Sound Transit’s concept design reports (here and here).

Of biggest interest, but not to any great surprise, is the update of the B and C segments, of which debates have yielded the most theatrical spectacles.  The newish B3 “114th design option” is a more radical alternative to the original B3, which curved away from 112th Ave to avoid Surrey Downs.  The new design takes the curve further east out toward 405, likely costing a good amount more than the original.  What the justification is for the modification isn’t really clear.  A few of the updates to the B7/BNSF alignment include the completion of the I-405 widening project and a new WSDOT sound wall between the freeway and 118th.

More below the jump.

A few things haven’t changed.  B7 continues to score the worst on ridership, cost, businesses displacements, and has greater direct environmental impacts.  Also of note is the consideration of the peat movement in the Mercer Slough, which would present a high construction risk in crossing the slough for the B7 route.  While the SDEIS did not quantify the construction risks, the evaluation summary does state that the risks remain high, as even WSDOT has had trouble dealing with the existing I-90 bridges.  This remains a huge “if” for B7.

There also aren’t many surprises from the downtown alternatives.  The four new routes have already been covered pretty well in the concept design report and the numbers haven’t shifted too much.  Both C11A and C9T continue to be the stars of the show in terms of coverage and ridership.  Though slightly cheaper, Kevin Wallace’s C14E “Vision Line” still fares the worst in ridership– its system-wide numbers are only comparable because its speed poaches riders from Overlake and Redmond, making the line more of a bypass than anything.

D2A alternatives in the Overlake area

Another modification of note is the D2A- NE 24th Design Option, which is actually the original D2 option that would have traveled at-grade through the Overlake area, stopping at the Overlake Village TC (currently Overlake P&R), and continuing along 520 to the Overlake TC.  Since then, an alternative has come up for the route to stick to 520, with the Overlake Village Station right off the freeway– Redmond has offered to fund a walkway between the freeway station and the Overlake P&R (sound familiar?).

The new option is a bit of a double-edged sword.  Its benefits include faster travel times by sticking to the freeway, cheaper costs with a shorter guideway, fewer business displacements by avoiding the neighborhood, and higher ridership– the caveat being that this is nothing more than Overlake’s own version of the Vision Line.  Even with the long walkway aside, you’re still poaching riders from other stations further out, catering to commuters and not transit-dependent populations, and missing out on what could be a good walkshed in a neighborhood that has already seen partiality to TOD.

I think the real success of East Link comes down to how useful the system will be and for whom.  If its a choice between a faster, less-accessible commuter-oriented line and a slower line with better coverage for all-day transit users, then I’ll pick the latter.  Sticking too much to the freeway really starts muddling the gap with mere high-capacity express service, and that’s not something the voters had in mind with ST2.

17 Replies to “Not much from East Link Supplement DEIS”

  1. I don’t think it’s accurate to equate the Overlake Village bypass to C14E. Currently, there is not much TOD potential in Overlake Village. If the station were on 520 it would allow a connection over the 36th St bridge to areas on 148th. Overlake Village would be a 5 or so minute walk, but the area beyond Overlake Village which would not be served as well by the freeway station are low density strip malls and the old Group Health complex. The freeway station serves the West side of 520 residential areas and the southern part of Microsoft better, connections to Rapid Ride B area a wash. The only bus connection which would be adversely affected would be the 249 to West Lake Sammamish and 269 towards Issaquah, but they could transfer at the Overlake Transit Center anyway.

    Are there any tradeoffs to the 520 routing at Overlake Village I missed?

    1. I tend to agree. The 520 location for the Overlake Village station is not bad. The only downside I see is that it is very close to the Overlake TC station. It shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes to walk between them.

      1. How about shifting the station closer to 148th Ave NE so that it can provide transfer to a bus route along 148th, while being closer to much of the Overlake area all of which has the potential for TOD develoment over time.

      2. As I understand it Link will be elevated over 148th and the current station plan is as close as they can put it. It’s really not very far away since the new 32nd/36th overpass will be right there. It’ll also be a pretty easy walk over to 156th, although most people would opt to just use Overlake TC instead. If only they could do away with the obscene cloverleafs to 148th that eat up two city blocks.

  2. This hints at an issue that we don’t often discuss in the pro-transit community — the public’s tendency to only think from their own direct perspective.

    What I mean by that is one finds a tendency to assume that the best route for transit is along the same route that cars use. Or that because they and their friends don’t walk/bike/transit to/from destinations obviously no one else will.

    Most of us here must realize that actual data often shows better routes for transit away from freeways and arterials or that there are an increasing number of folks who would actually prefer to live in dense neighborhoods with access to frequent and rapid transit.

    I wonder how we as supporters learn to educate the public and message better.

    1. Let me correct that for you:
      “the public’s tendency to invalidate all but their own direct perspective.”

      Other than that, great points. I don’t think such education is possible. Or Surrey Downs is immune.

      1. The mouse has some good insight, but Tim, your comment in attacking SD is offensive. Protecting your home and land is to be expected and applauded in America. It is far different from the accusation you make regarding limited perspective (consider this blog) intelligence and education. That is just rude.

    2. I think this is really where facts and the EIS process come into play. Naturally it is almost impossible not to look at projects like this from your own perspective, especially if you live or work in the area.

      The only way to have a broad range of people looking a project in the same way is to present facts about travel time, ridership, development potential, connects to other modes, etc, etc. While everyone will still be working from their own perspective and experiences this information creates a common reference point, not based on experiences.

  3. After reviewing the presentation, I am surprised by the limited number of comments here. I am also somewhat surprised to see the environmental data regarding b7 conflicts with what we have been told here and elsewhere. There is far less destruction of parkland, wetlands and sensitive buffer as well as displacement of human environment than will result from sound transit’s preferred routes.

    Sound transit is also overreacting to our temporary economic downturn.

    Also, If the vision line is actually 4-5 minutes faster through bellevue …..would that not give us the time needed to directly tie in the Bellevue transit center via a stub end station, recovering the lost ridership? And increasing route ridership overall?

      1. B7 has been branded as the environmental villain. Sherwin even supports this in this article:

        “B7 continues to score the worst on . . . businesses displacements, and has greater direct environmental impacts.”

        That just isn’t supported in the DEIS (Chapter 3) or in the Summary (Page 11). B7 is favorable to Parks, Wetlands Buffer (Shoreline Management Controlled areas affected) and displacements of homes and businesses. Only under “high value habitat” (i.e. undeveloped and otherwise unusable land) an unprotected area including many private lands – could it be considered materially less favorable to the environment.

        Running up the East Side of Bellevue way for over a mile – just feet from sensitive wetlands and environmentally regulated property — is an environmental travisty in the making.

  4. The peat movement issue has me concern irregardless of which alignment they use. Rubber tired vehicles can tolerate a lot more shifting in the roadbed than rail. Plus the point loading from rail is much more severe. A suspension or cable stay bridge across the slew would be the 100 year solution but it would probably cost 3X the money and why do it right when you can do it over, and over like the sinking bridges the State is so in love with. I’d also like to know what sort of settling the City has encountered with Bellevue Way. The rail ROW will be even closer to the swamp and I wonder what sort of foundation that four story parking place will require. Remember, this whole area was under water until the Army Corp of Engineers lowered the Lake level when they built the Locks.

  5. an alternative has come up for the route to stick to 520, with the Overlake Village Station right off the freeway

    I’m obviously in favor of this change since I suggested it on this blog back in late summer of 2008. Overlake Village and Overlake TC are indeed close together but I believe farther apart than Bellevue TC and Overlake Hospital and I think farther apart than the Spring District and the 130th P&R stations which currently service nothing but a half empty Amazon Fresh warehouse and a bunch of autobody shops. Microsoft is on par with UW as a jobs center. Overlake TC will get a station because it’s the end of the line but it’s a long hike from the Overlake retail area and from the apartments along 148th. In fact, ST could save a pile of money and just end at Overlake Village until such time that there is funding to complete the extension to DT Redmond. The biggest chance I see for significant new development between DT Bellevue and Microsoft is the old Group Health site and this location is right there. The alternative of at grade on NE 24th and then turning onto 152nd was a traffic nightmare and likely would have become accident central.

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