A new idea would move the 112th crossing further south (image from Sound Transit)

[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.

A new design concept for B2M would move the 112th crossing further south (click to enlarge)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The second shows keeping the alignment on the west-side will avoid the crossing at SE 8th.
  3. The third looks north up 112th with a SE 8th Station on the west side of the street.   

42 Replies to “Bellevue Neighbors Pursue New 112th Ave Design Option”

  1. Props to these citizens for making something happen. The Bellevue City Council should be ashamed at their lack of ability to lead and govern on this issue. I am talking to you, Mr. Wallace.

  2. Sherwin, I’m not as intimiately familiar with the East Link process and key participants as you are, so allow me to ask: Who is Ric Ilgenfritz and what qualifies him to offer opinoins of what can and cannot be done following publication of the FEIS?

    Thanks,
    -Dave

    1. Ric Ilgenfritz is the Executive Director of Policy and Planning at Sound Transit. He’s definitely qualified to know what can and cant be done.

      1. Thanks for the clarification, Pete; I simply hadn’t come across Ric’s name before. I certainly agree that someone in his position knows what’s going on with the FEIS process.

    2. That’s my mistake. I forgot to mention Ric’s connection with ST. I will fix that.

      Ric is also the one interviewed in the KING 5 program.

  3. Fair enough. It sounds to me like these people are making an honest effort to come up with an option that’ll work for everyone. Their plan seems pretty reasonable from what I can see. The only part I would worry about, which would have been a problem with the original B2-C as well, is that grade crossing. I’ve got to think it’d be worth spending the money at this point and sending the trains up and over the road. No good can come from a grade crossing.

    1. It seems like a diagonal crossing at an intersection could work well. Stop all traffic when the train is to cross, then the major problems would be with right turn on red from NB 112th SE and cars blocking the intersection. Some thinking about how to deal with bicycle traffic would need to be done as well. Maybe a separated bike path to the east of the rails?

  4. It is disingenuous to not show this new crossing concept without the crossing arms and wig-wag lights (for lack of a better term) that will inevitably have to be installed here after the first grade crossing accident/death/settlement.

      1. Metro light rail in Phoenix has a crossing like that. It’s done with traffic lights to control the road traffic plus small flashers and crossbucks on the sidewalk. The sidewalk actually bends out from the road a little way than jinks back so that bicyclists end up taking the rails at 90 degrees.

      1. Thanks! I was drawing a blank. Of course if you look at an old wig-wag, it is doing what a grade crossing flasher does, but with one moving lamp as opposed to two adjacent lamps that alternate in their blinking.

        Anyways, wouldn’t this grade crossing end up looking like this one:

        http://goo.gl/EizGk

        at E Burnside and SE Stark in Gresham, Oregon used to, with massively tall gates?

  5. I actually like this design option regardless of neighborhood impacts, simply because it has one less at-grade crossing. I’ve been a vocal supporter of any grade seperation, not because it benefits drivers but because it’ll reduce accidents and slow-down at the crossings.

    Judging from the past accidents in SoDo and Rainer Valley, I think ST should place more emphasis on systemwide reliability. (I am not a daily rider of LINK, but I have a feeling that trains began to slow down more at Holsgate St. crossing after suicide there last month). If ST can eliminate 112th crossing by lower the 112th, I think East Link will be 100% grade-separated between DT Seattle and DT Bellevue like North Link.

    1. +1, although I’m not worried too much about the lights. The trouble with the RV is (was) the rapid sequence of lights. It’s much easier to arrange transit priority with just one light. Grade separating that intersection will cost a fortune and can come later if need be.

      1. That section of 112th is almost never seriously congested. Even on really bad traffic nights where Bellevue Way is backed up for a mile or two, the line on 112th headed South gets long, but not *that* long.

        Grade separation is great and all, but this is not where you want to be spending ST funds. Throw them at a tunnel if need be although I still think Bellevue could manage traffic with a surface routing which serves more people and costs less.

      2. If done later, the road would probably be grade-separated over the rail, and it would probably come out of a different budget.

    2. Correction: It won’t be 100% grade-separated by eliminating 112th crossing, since there are a few on Bellevue Way.

      1. More generally, the planned peak headways for East Link are 9 minutes, and at grade with good signal programming is adequate for that. There’s also plenty of grade-separated track between Bellevue and Downtown Seattle to make up any lost time to maintain interlining with Central Link.

      2. I hadn’t caught that peak headway on East Link is scheduled for 9 minutes. Does that mean South Link will likewise end up 9 minutes peak headway, to interline to 4.5 minutes peak headway on U/North Link?

        If that is the case, why is the DSTT considered to be too full to handle West Link?

      3. The “Future Link Headways” post (linked on the right) is good reading. Short answer: there will eventually be two “lines” on Central Link.

      4. There are two trains planned to continue on Central Link for every one that goes east. One will turn back somewhere in south Seattle, probably Henderson and the other will continue to the airport/200th.

        So the headway through the tunnel and on North Link is proposed to be three minutes.

  6. Since the track is going to be in a retained cut along Bellevue Way, can’t it just continue under 112th and come to the surface on the west side?

  7. I’m going to spoil the atmosphere of compromise and say that I hate, hate, hate the extension of the park to an area adjacent to the station. I realize that plot is never going to be Capitol Hill, but it would be nice if we found a higher use for that extremely valuable patch of land.

    1. I’m not too thrilled about it either, but I think if this is the only thing that brings neighbors on board, then I’ll take it.

    2. Moving the station actually frees up space on the east side of 112th that is already zoned for commercial development.

    3. Given the area, it is probably a good use of the land. It helps create a buffer between the station and nearby houses. In so doing, it may help make it more acceptable to those home owners than if it was filled with something with more density (a big building).

      1. It also gives better access from the residential neighborhood to the station. Too many streets that go nowhere in that neighborhood.

    4. I can see your point but I think it would be a win with the park extended. The SE8th station park extention looks like it opens a entire neighborhood to walkable access to the station, the long extention can have a bike path, encouraging walers and bikers from the north. Add to the fact that residents get more sound buffering I think this could be a good plan

    5. Who cares if there’s a park if it helps the Link line get built. I’d be happy to let Surrey Downs put whatever they like in the extension area if it makes more of them support the train.

      Looking at Google Maps, the houses that would be taken also form a barrier between Surrey Downs and the station. Removing them would let residents walk straight east from 111th to the station. Otherwise you’d have to walk north to the edge of the existing park and back down. The residents might smile when they see their house prices rise due to pedestrian access to the station. And over time, train riders would buy houses there. (Oh wait, that may be an unfeature according to some.)

  8. Martin and Sherwin,

    Does that count as hate times three, or hate to the third power? Substitute “incomprehensible”, and it’s still too mild for why you’d say something like this about extending a park.

    Especially when the idea is proposed by people willing to face down their own neighbors, some of whom are not only rich but nasty, to get a transit line you’ve been advocating for years.

    Do I want to know what your idea is of “a higher use”? Capitol Hill has parks, including a pretty big one with a museum in it. Only explanation I can think of, especially as spring approaches, is you guys have worse hayfever than I do.

    Meantime, I want to get with these guys and see if their new park could include a sculpture of Kemper Freeman waving at the trains.

    Mark Dublin

    1. My definition of “park” must be different than that of this plan. This land is a buffer zone, a noisy soon to be dirty, soon to be overgrown not pleasant place to be. The trouble is that trees/srubs/bramble/brush is not a good visual buffer, or sound buffer.

      No one wants to sit in the grass and watch trains go by. Well maybe there are some train nuts, but seriously, would you want your kids to play next to the tracks in the “park”. I think not.

      Now if moving the tracks, buying up some more houses, and putting a green belt makes this project go forward, I’m all for it. But please don’t call that land a “park”. It cheapens the term.

      1. Parks don’t have to be active spaces. The Snoqualmie National Park is an industrial resource for Wayerhauser, and yet we still call it a park. You’re trying to be exclusive with the term. Plus, there are plenty of parks next to tracks that are just fine, even for kids. Obviously, though, this won’t be one. Not enough density to make the space worth its salt and a group of neighbours who hate the idea of anything but a massive road for their H3s and Maserattis.

      2. You might call it that but everyone else calls it the Snoqualmie National Forest. There’s no logging allowed in the Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks.

      3. Stephen,

        No, it’s not. All National Forest land not designated as Wilderness is “multiple use”, meaning whatever the current regional forester happens to want it to mean. Now Seattle outdoorsfolks are a powerful antidote to Weyerhauser’s desire to cut the remaining trees, and plenty of people USE it as a “park”. But without a Wilderness designation, it’s not a “park” legally.

      4. Wilderness designation
        Names really do matter. Park, no cut. Wilderness means no mtn bikes (but iron hooves OK).

  9. The biggest drawback I see to this proposal is that what little ridership there is for this station and virtually all of the potetial increased ridership is east of 112th. The big benefit is to traffic flow. It removes the crossing of SE 8th and I think the crossing of 112th farther from DT will have less impact. I don’t think residents will consider the added greenbelt extension in any way an equitable mitigation for plowing through Surry Downs Park.

    What’s abundantly clear is that the B7 alignment is superior in every way with respect to entering DT and that it’s the pesky S. Bellevue P&R in it’s bad location that’s driving the B2 alignment. I hesitate to call either proposal B2M because if ST had agreed to all of the City Councils original B2 modified proposal it would be a done deal already and focus could be returned to funding C9T.

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