A-2 Garage from B7R plan, Looking South to I-90

On Monday, the City of Bellevue elected to not exercise their option to finish out the Phase 1 study on the B7R alternative for the South Bellevue alignment, bringing up the July delivery date for the final report to arrive in time to influence the Sound Transit board’s final decision.

The final output is the interim report we discussed last month, for a total cost of $700,000. Had the report been completed as originally intended, the City would have also had the option of pursuing two additional follow-on phases, potentially costing up to $3m and taking as long as two years to complete. From the City’s press release:

Along with the report, council will send a letter to Sound Transit highlighting the benefits of the B7-Revised route — including fewer traffic impacts and better ridership — and asking the board to consider the route as the agency completes its final environmental review.

The Bellevue Reporter has a number of worthwhile details and quotes.

There will be  a public meeting on the report at City Hall, June 29th, 5:30pm.

22 Replies to “Bellevue Terminates B7R Study”

      1. The council voted unanimously at the same meeting on the letter to the RTC regarding Metro restructuring. In fact the council votes in unity on most issues. One liner sound bites that aren’t even true don’t accomplish anything except fermenting vitriol.

    1. I’m not sure that voting record is correct. Councilmember Lee voted to complete the study (the delta is ~$35k of a total budget of ~$735 including the change orders approved by staff) because he believed the additional cost provided information critical in being able to say that the route is indeed feasible (constructability). Councilmember Chelminiak spoke in favor of completing the study which he felt was justified on the basis of the renderings which would be included (specifically the elevated station at I-90). I think Arup’s getting off with doing about half the work they’ve billed for by being able to simply gussy up the draft report.

      The largest change order (~$30k) was related to the option of providing a separate freight corridor in lew of shared freight/passenger ROW. Because of the catenary shared operation is difficult/expensive to achieve. How was it presented in the original DEIS for B7? What is Sound Transit’s contingency for the portion of the BNSF corridor they intend on using between downtown Bellevue and Bel-Red and how does the proposed regional trail fit in?

    2. If you were councilmember Balducci, would you vote for something which says B7 includes “fewer traffic impacts and better ridership”?

      1. I figured she might be making a political statement, but the net result is that she voted against ending the B7 study. I found it particularly odd that she’s in the same column as Lee.

    3. A little late to this thread – but I wanted to answer the question about my vote. The action as moved was kind of muddled, but appeared to me to require that we: (1) stop additional work on B7R at this time; (2) complete the final report; and (3) send the final report to Sound Transit with a cover letter that says things like B7R is a “promising” alternative. I was in favor of #1, opposed to spending the money needed to accomplish #2 (tens of thousands of dollars more) and couldn’t support the statements in #3. On balance, that led me to a “no” vote.

      Note that the B7R study was already way over budget. Staff were at the point where they needed Council approval to pay the contractors for more work. If the motion had gone down, we still would have had to affirmatively vote to give the project more money or the study would have died for lack of funds. My calculation was that this wasn’t likely to happen so there was little downside to a “no” vote.

      I can’t speak to Council member Lee’s reasoning.

      1. Thank you Council member Balducci for your response. I just finished watching a replay of my BTV recording. Debate was civil but still a bit of a sideshow. After having sat though it all live and watching the replay it still makes little sense. You spoke in favor of cutting off funding but then voted to extend it. Council member Chelminiak spoke in favor of completing the study and then voted against it. Your objection here is to the wording of the letter which council member Degginger amended yet you never spoke to the wording of the letter. Now you’re saying this is why you voted contrary to your testimony to cut off funding? Muddled indeed. As to the issue of being over budget, staff was (amazingly) at exactly the 10% limit for discretionary spending without support from either side of a split council. I have other issues with staff that need much more transparency. And speaking of muddled, the final 4-3 vote at the session on extending legal services and the motion to reconsider is totally incomprehensible. But that’s something council member Chelminiak is on the block to explain.

  1. I’m not seeing how this is a bad thing. Sounds to me like capitulation.

    In related news:
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2015319741_guest15lukens.html
    Six former Bellevue mayors argue that the City Council majority’s advocacy of a costly light-rail route alternative to Sound Transit’s preferred route is the wrong decision for the city. They join others, including Boeing and Microsoft, in urging the City Council to end the delay.

  2. There’s that phrasing again:

    the B7-Revised route – including fewer traffic impacts and better ridership

    I hate this, where they don’t specify what it’s being compared against. It vaguely implies that B7-R has better projections than the ST preferred route, when in fact they’re comparing it to the original B7.

    1. I seem to recall B7R has similar performance estimates to B2M, except it costs at least $150M more and goes over the wetland.

      1. Yeah. It closes the ridership gap dramatically, and is at least now in the same area as B2M, but still doesn’t beat it.

        So there’s still no compelling reasons to pick up the extra costs and risks of B7.

  3. Very glad to see this, for the region’s sake and for Bellevue’s even more.

    ST Route 550 is one of my favorite rides, especially on clear days when Mt. Rainier is out. Its east terminal is Bellevue Library, which just as a piece of architecture is a great destination.

    I’ve also walked the 112th Avenue right of way between South Bellevue Park and Ride and Bellevue Transit Center. The farther I walked, the more I was convinced: of the whole LINK system, EastLINK will be the most beautiful, and probably one of the most scenic rides in the transit world.

    My only regret is that its effect on property values will make it impossible for me, and probably also Bill Gates, ever to live in Surrey Downs.

    Mark Dublin

    1. There’s not really much I can think to say, and I suspect that goes for many people. This news suggests that this round of the game is played out. Nothing this study has revealed is at all likely to sway ST’s opinions about the possible alignments. ST will continue EIS work and engineering for B2M, and the council is unlikely to make further bold moves until after the election.

      That the council thought this study sufficiently unpromising to bother paying for the rest of it is arguably a vindication of what B2M advocates have said all along, but no-one is under the illusion that this battle is over.

    2. So where is the additional money for the downtown Bellevue tunnel going to come from? A local ballot measure? If that fails, I suppose we get the C11A surface alignment, which didn’t look that bad to me given that the two stations offer better coverage of Bellevue’s sizable downtown area.

      It seems like it could be a good thing for downtown Bellevue to visually connect Link and the streetscape. I think it would help develop a unique urban identity for that area, an identify that seems not fully developed today.

      An elevated alignment would have animated the streetscape in a different and dynamic way and avoided the intersection impacts. Both elevated and surface alignments would have a significant impact at ground level. Bellevue soundly rejected the elevated alignment in a prior phase, but is Bellevue prepared to accept C11A if the tunnel funding falls through?

      1. “So where is the additional money for the downtown Bellevue tunnel going to come from?”

        That’s the job of the Bellevue City Council to figure out.

      2. These are rough numbers, but if the City wanted general taxpayers to pay for it, that would be $1250 per person ($150 million and 120,000 residents). Amortized over 30 years–with bonds against future tax revenue–it’s just over $40 per year per resident plus interest. It’s not insurmountable.

        *these numbers may be wrong and are very rough.

  4. As Bruce said, don’t be under the illusion the battle is over.

    I think from the perspective of the Bellevue city council majority, the work can be stopped on B7R because the ridership problem is solved. They solve the funding problem by side-stepping the tunnel (C9T) or at-grade (C11A) question entirely and switching C-segment support to C14E, the so-called Vision Line, what Wallace wanted all along. Poof, no more funding issue.

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