I recently sat down with Redmond city planner Terry Marpert to talk about the city’s plans for the Overlake area when East Link comes in (hopefully) by 2021. When the project’s SDEIS (Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement) came out last month, I took an editorial slant favoring the D2 NE 24th Design Option over the currently preferred freeway-running alignment for the D segment. That option would have veered off 520, along NE 24th Street, and curved up 152nd Ave NE to rejoin the freeway, stopping once at the Overlake P&R. The new D2A continues entirely along the freeway with an Overlake Village station at the north end of 152nd.
In the past, we’ve been pretty opposed to freeway-oriented stations generally due to their deterrence for mid-day transit dependent users and unfriendliness toward TOD (transit-oriented development). According to Marpert, however, the city’s plans and support for the new freeway-running D2A alternative will actually help encourage walkable TOD in the Overlake area.
More below the jump.
Some of the positives of the Overlake Village freeway station are typical with freeway segments in general. Because of the grade separation and adherence to the 520 right-of-way, the new D2A will reduce travel times and likely produce less noise. It would also cost some $50 million less by reducing track length and avoiding business displacements. With the NE 24th Design Option, around 67 businesses would be displaced because of the track’s 500 foot curve radius from NE 24th to 152nd.
According to Marpert, the freeway station still wouldn’t make much sense without some kind of connection across 520. To address the issue, Redmond has been planning a ped/bike-only bridge (PDF) across the freeway that would link the commercial district south of 520 and the employment areas to the north along with the 520 trail. This would be in addition to the newly opened NE 36th, just a fifth of a mile northeast.
With the ped/bike bridge, however, Marpert says you can expand the freeway station’s walkshed by serving areas unreachable with the old station. This would include multi-family housing along 148th Avenue NE in addition to the offices north of 520. While the freeway station would move the walkshed away from areas south of NE 24th, the RapidRide B line would already help compensate for some of these lost service areas.
The project is only a small part of a much larger Overlake Village plan (PDF), which includes subdividing the block bounded by NE 24th and 152nd into a much more pedestrian-friendly street grid. The plan includes street-level retail, a dedicated bikeway along 152nd, and even sidewalk zones for seating and thru-traffic. Under the NE 24th Design Option, the plan’s elements would be severely curtailed by Link’s 500 foot turn.
The City of Redmond has a terrific page on the Overlake Village planning initiative with a treasure trove of information, including diagrams of the proposed ped/bike bridge and plans for the sub-divided street grid, as well as walkshed maps for all of the considered stations in the Overlake area. With so much thinking going on behind the project, it’s encouraging to see that Redmond is actively caring about using Link to create walkable transit-oriented communities, something Bellevue could certainly learn from.