[Update 9:03am (2/19)]: Below the jump, I’ve attached three renderings** that essentially show how the route will play out in the neighborhood.
One of the more compelling aspects to fly under the radar in Bellevue’s East Link debate is when residents who don’t necessarily feel strongly about Sound Transit one way or another, take on responsibilities that are really the City’s to shoulder. In this case, plenty of Bellevue residents believe that City money would have been much better spent hiring consultants to perfect B2M instead of embarking on a wild goose chase for an alignment that the ST Board will have difficulty swallowing.
Private citizens and business interests are responding, however. Over the past few months, a group of stakeholders along 112th Ave, including the Bellevue Club and area hotels, have come up with further modifications to the B2-C segment connector with the hope of lessening traffic and noise impacts, and cheapening the alignment cost. On the outset, it is a NIMBY-oriented response, albeit one that smartly shows willingness to compromise, something that is clearly lacking with B7-Revised.
The new design option* essentially expands on ideas that were tossed around when Sound Transit was working on its 112th Ave Concept Design Report earlier last year. Then, a group of homeowners and businesses banded together to pick the west-side running option. Some of the same stakeholders have since developed some new modifications which include:
- Moving the at-grade crossing from SE 6th Street further south to an arbitrary location TBD
- Potentially increasing the number of residential property acquisitions along the west side of 112th
- Using the acquired properties as a park buffer and extension of Surrey Downs park
- Potentially lowering the costs by avoiding slough-related engineering risks on the east side of 112th
Bill Thurston, president of the Bellevue Club and one of the developers of the idea, says that the modifications would primarily help mitigate the impacts that area residents have long complained about while reaping certain benefits, like potentially cheapening cost and creating some kind of a greenbelt to act as a park extension and buffer for Link. Thurston also believes it would give a kind of “grand boulevard” effect to 112th, one of the three primary north-south corridors into downtown Bellevue.
Lincoln Plaza, the property directly south of SE 6th Street, has signed on to the plan arguing that building Link on the east side of 112th up until SE 8th would incur unpredictable costs because the property sits on fill that covers what was once part of Mercer Slough. According to Thurston, a significant portion of B2M construction costs would come just from navigating that short segment.
Politically, the most important part of the new design is that it’s gaining some traction among neighborhood residents. Though none of the neighborhood organizations have taken a stand on it, some residents (reputedly as much as half) have expressed interest in being bought out by a revised B2M, very much in the same manner as the condo-owners along 112th.
The big question about this option, of course, is whether or not it’s just another late player, like B7-Revised, particularly in Sound Transit’s eyes. Thurston argues that it’s not, and that that unlike B7-R, which has significant revisions to the old B7 and likely requires further additional review, this new option merely capitalizes on the B2M alignment with some favorable modifications.
Whether or not the new option may require a supplement to the FEIS or can just be included in the later stages of design & engineering depends on the complexity and significance of the modifications, according to Ric Ilgenfritz, ST planner, who says that the iterative process for nailing down the the final alignment continues well beyond the Final EIS. Ilgenfritz also notes that though a FTA record of decision has been issued for North Link, modifications continue to be made.
It remains to be seen whether or not this new design option will even play out to be a potential candidate. Nonetheless, Sound Transit is likely to find this concept as a gesture far more welcoming than the official one from the City of Bellevue. While all parties seem to agree in lessening the negative impacts of light rail, the choice is a lot easier when one group can offer compromise while the other desperately tries to skirt around it.
*To be clear, the new design option is only a concept floating between Bellevue stakeholders and, like B7-R, is notofficially recognized by Sound Transit yet.
**[UPDATE:] Thanks to Betina Finley, former Bellevue city council candidate and supporter of this option, I’ve attached three renderings (PDF) that show the basic nature of this option:
- The first rendering depicts 112th as the “Grand Boulevard,” which, according to Finley, has a streetscape design consistent with that of Bellevue’s Great Streets Plan.
- The second shows keeping the alignment on the west-side will avoid the crossing at SE 8th.
- The third looks north up 112th with a SE 8th Station on the west side of the street.