532 & B Line at BTC, photo by Oran

Over the next couple of years, Bellevue will be undertaking a significant upgrade to its Downtown Transportation Plan.  Last updated in 2004 as the transportation component of the downtown subarea plan, the current plan doesn’t reflect recent developments in transit over the last few years, notably the passage of East Link and the opening of the RapidRide B Line.  From the City of Bellevue news release:

Targeted for completion in early 2013, the new plan could set the stage for projects as big as new highway overpasses and streets and as small as lane modifications and tweaks in traffic signal timing. The plan is intended to be “multi-modal,” addressing needs not only for cars, but also pedestrians and cyclists.

The draft principles note that the plan will be consistent with the city’s overall vision for downtown, and acknowledge the need to leverage a variety of funding sources and collaborate with regional partners for projects. The principles also emphasize inclusive public participation, involving downtown businesses and residents, as well as surrounding neighborhoods and the city’s entire business community. The Transportation Commission will guide the process.

The plan will also include updates to regional factors, like updated growth forecasts through 2030, 520 tolling, and the Bel-Red redevelopment.  With road capacity nearly maxed out, it’s also predicated on a multi-modal strategy to drive up the non-SOV mode share, which is currently too low for significant growth to occur downtown in the future.  The plan’s website has a fairly comprehensive page on the technical scope of work’s guiding principles.

Despite the city’s long tradition of auto-dominance, I think the priorities here are right, especially with the emphasis on multi-modal capital-intensive improvements.  The public outreach strategy has been rather creative too, with recent bike rides hosted to solicit input from citizen bicyclists.  Whether or not the City might consider a public bus ride for transit users remains to be seen.

30 Replies to “Bellevue Updating Downtown Transportation Plan”

  1. I think expanding NE 6th St as a transit only busway would be huge for downtown mobility. Extending it west to Bellevue Square and east across I-405 would create a really strong backbone for bus service similar to 3rd Ave in Seattle. E/W travel is where buses really need priority and I don’t see them ever getting it on NE 8th or Ne 4th. This would also allow N/S buses to tie in really well and would reduce the number of turns buses currently have to make to get into or out of BTC.

    1. NE 6th is pretty pleasant now as pedestrian-only between Bellvue Way and 108th NE. I wouldn’t want that to change.

    2. There are space constraints which will preclude a NE 6th busway to Bellevue Way, NE 6th will punch through to 120th and be funded by WSDOT in the next few decades.

  2. Hopefully, someday, you won’t have to push a button to cross the street, i.e. get there early, etc. If anything best highlights skewed priorities, that might be it.

  3. More than anything, downtown Bellevue needs to prioritize becoming more pedestrian friendly. It’s a pretty daunting experience to be a pedestrian in Bellevue. What can they do to calm traffic, create a better pedestrian experience, maybe make more minor streets like 106th Ave and NE 2nd St more pedestrian oriented?

    1. PS: maybe also more mid-block pedestrian crossings, and also across blocks at the halfway point

      1. Too bad we can’t edit. And encourage back entrances to buildings/stores – anything to make pedestrian routes more friendly and more direct. If I’m in a bldg on the west side of 108th and want to head to 106th, don’t make me start by heading east to 108th and then go all the way over to 4th/6th/8th, how about let me out the west side

      2. I don’t see mid block crossings ever happening. Sky bridges maybe. At major intersections I think the answer is having an all cross pedestrian signal. That way pedestrians don’t have to wait two turns of the light to cross diagonally and drivers turning right don’t have to wait multiple turns of the light because the crosswalk is being used.

      3. Sky bridges are rarely an effective substitute for crosswalks, depending on how much time it takes to climb to the level of the bridge. There are usually more jaywalkers at such monuments to gratuitous architecture than there are bridge crossers.

      4. Bernie,
        Bellevue already has a few mid-block crossings, I can see areas where the city might be inclined to put in more. Sure, I doubt we will see any along NE 8th but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities in the downtown core.

    2. NE 2nd is slated to become another major arterial with a half diamond interchange to mirror NE 10th. The plan, when that happens is to turn Main Street into the pedestrian/bike/local business corridor. With the development of the highrise buildings DT Bellevue incorporated pedestrian paths. They don’t work so well for bikes though (neither do wide sidewalks). Starting with a clean slate in Bel-Red the plans are looking pretty good.

      1. The last open house on this subject was about a year ago. Since then the city has been completely consumed with East Link and the Shorelines Management issues. I don’t have a link to the presentation; I do still have my hard copy. Suffice it to say that none of it is funded in the next couple of years TIP. The ideas for Main looked pretty nice. While I’m not nuts about 2nd getting a major interchange my hope is the impact of the cloverleaf at NE 8th can gradually be mitigated. That is a huge waste of space (like the 520/148th interchange) and it’s; ped/bike hostile and not even a good automobile design.

    3. As it stands today, nearly every building has its own parking garage, so when you drive to downtown Bellevue, you have zero experience as a pedestrian on the street, the result being that you have zero stake in the streets of DT Bellevue being pedestrian friendly. Given that virtually every business either provides free parking for their customers, or validates parking to make it free, nearly everyone who shops in downtown Bellevue drives there.

    4. There is a mid-street crossing just east of 101st on Main, another to the north into the Downtown Park, another at the Civica (Seastar) building on 108th, one on the south side of the library across 10th and the “scramble” between BTC and the Galleria to the west. These five are from memory…there might be more I’m not remembering. Also, keep in mind that Bellevue downtown is only 12×12 blocks (or 16×16 if you want to push it.) Five mid-block crossings is actually quite a few for such a small area.

      As for sky bridges not getting used, I have rarely if ever seen jaywalking under the three existing skybridges. It seems no one uses the one from the library to the north, but the ones from mall to mall to mall seem to be used all the time.

    5. Carl,
      Bellevue has come a very long way toward being more pedestrian friendly in the last 25 years. Sure there is much more that could be done, but compared to how things were in say 1988 they’ve made great strides.

      This isn’t to say they shouldn’t continue to improve, but it is worth noting how far they’ve come.

  4. With road capacity nearly maxed out

    Please… this is a pet peeve. Road capacity is nowhere near maxed out. In fact there is an obscene amount of excess capacity and we’re spending billions building more. 405 was closed this weekend and it wasn’t Carmageddon. What we have is an excess of peak demand which has resulted in massive overbuilding so that “everybody” can drive their cars (alone) during the AM and PM peak. The difference is significant because the solution to increasing peak capacity is insanely expensive; either light rail (which will only cover a small area) or more roads which is pretty much self defeating because of induced demand. Reducing peak demand is much easier; hot lanes/ variable tolling, building more housing near employment, incentives for car/van pools, telecommuting or flexible work incentives are a few of the carrots. Sticks include parking taxes, vehicle license fees, increased gas taxes, etc. which are hand grenades lobbed at drivers as opposed to smart bombs aimed at peak demand.

  5. Is anything going to be done about the awful pedestrian crossing of I-405 on NE 8th St? The combination of multiple long waits at stoplights and an extremely dangerous on-ramp crossing (the drivers like to zoom around the corner and never stop for pedestrians) is a huge deterrent for accessing downtown Bellevue from the surrounding neighborhood to the east.

    1. Would it be prudent to cross at either NE 4th or NE 10th instead? A two or four block detour might be safer.

    2. I’ve never heard of one pedestrian-vehicle accident at the crossing you’re talking about. If you’re going to call an area dangerous, please back it up with data.

      1. I challenge you to walk across the 8th St. bridge over 405 yourself on a busy traffic day. If you don’t feel like you’re about to get run over when you cross the freeway on-ramps, you’re extremely brave.

      2. He didn’t say it was an high-accident area, he said there are multiple deterrents to cross as a ped.

    3. You are absolutely correct that 10th is safer, and, while I don’t travel in that area often, when I do, I try to cross using 10th.

      That being said, it’s about 4/10 of a mile between 4th and 10th st. And 4th St. ends at 116, so anyone coming from the houses along 8th and 124 would have to take 8th west at least until 116th anyway (BTW: the sidewalk on 8th abruptly ending between 116th and 120 is also completely unacceptable and is something the city of Bellevue really needs to fix). So, someone coming west on the south side of 8th, today, has no good options.

      Given that 10th is closer to 8th than 4th, my recommendation would be to add a sidewalk along 6th until it ends in the middle of 405, then angling north-east, joining at the corner of 8th and 116. It it could allow pedestrians to bypass the light at 116th, that would be even better.

      The big advantage of this approach is that it would provide a good enough parallel alternative to 8th St. that it would allow you to give up on making 8th St. safe entirely and simply close the sidewalk on the 8th St. bridge, declaring it to be car/bus only for that stretch.

  6. I seem to remember reading an article 10 years ago or so about a Downtown Bellevue transportation charrette where people were proposing kayak canals and a system of covered moving sidewalks.

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