It’s unanimous; story here. I haven’t had a chance to look at the Memorandum of Understanding in detail.

It appears that Bellevue is directly on the hook for $100m in costs. A further $60m may be partially waived (Section 4.2c) if there are savings on particular parts of the project. However, if ST has to cut its expenditures it can do so by deferring stations, parking lots, and so on without affecting the city’s contribution.

The grade separation modifications in Segment B are approved pending an environmental review.

Other documents are here. A big element of political risk to the project just went away.

39 Replies to “Bellevue Council Approves East Link Alignment”

  1. Pleased to see Kemper’s ability to purchase elections isn’t what he thinks it is. I’m sure that played into Wallace’s sudden desire to cooperate.

      1. “+1. Nice seeing Bellevue voters support pro-transit folks.”

        As several speakers and Grant pointed out, Bellevue voters have supported transit for decades. The real issue is Kemper’s hostility towards light rail. To be honest, if he had put together a team of transit experts and really pushed for a *real* BRT / HOV alternative I probably would have supported it. But I doubt he and many other rail critics ever really bought into BRT. To them BRT is simply a weapon to be used against the communist hordes at Sound Transit. I’d be happy to be proven wrong but that’s the impression I get as a transit rider and/or driver in the Bellevue area for over 30 years.

      2. Sorry. But buses are not at all popular in comparison to rail. BRT is not comparable to rail. Even back in the 50s/early 60s, Greyhound was a poor second choice to the rail lines. And, believe me, Greyhound was in its glorious peak back then. It still was a distant second. Who in the heck wants to be stuck on a bus when rail is an, albeit, more expensive, alternative.

        Yes, I realize Greyhound is not BRT.

        But, really. Think about it. Who would rather be on a bus than rail?

        Kemper? I would be willing to bet that dude has never been on a bus in his entire life. OK, maybe an airport shuttle bus.

        Truly, it is somewhat difficult to put a finger on it, but buses, sorry, “suck”, in comparison to rail.

      3. Think about it. Who would rather be on a bus than rail?

        Well, my son whenever he needs to get back to Bellingham on a Sunday. Think about it. Amtrak takes longer, costs more and has a much less convenient schedule. As an excursion sure, trains and cruise ships have it all over buses and airplanes. For real transportation needs, not so much. As for Curitiba style BRT there’s really no all day demand that warrants it in this area (and it would likely be more expensive than rail). But for peak demand, like SeattleEastside, buses are a much better use of capital than a light rail system that runs empty the majority of the time. Especially when you’re spending hundreds of millions to retrofit a roadway that already has the capacity and infrastructure for buses and will be completely replaced about 25 years after the currently proposed schedule for Light Rail opening (how many more slips and who to blame it on?). prediction, if East Link opens as planed there will already be tolling in place to fund the I-90 replacement budget. But the rail portion will be from ST levied sales tax which dooms any hope of the extension to Marymoor (202) and DT Redmond.

      4. There’s a difference between rail’s POTENTIAL and the severe underfunding Amtrak, commuter rail, and metros have suffered in the past 50 years. If we had invested differently, Amtrak Cascades could be running hourly like Caltrain right now, with higher speed and a lower ticket price.

    1. I also appreciate the fact that the biggest Sound Transit skeptics haven’t proved to be dead-enders. After they exhausted the other options, they’ve come around to getting something done.

      It’s the difference between being anti-rail and being in favor of an alignment that probably isn’t the best.

      1. And I appreciate you recognizing that, Martin. I really, really want a train in downtown Bellevue. That’s why I voted for it twice and wrote my council about a dozen times. I don’t trust the people involved (on both sides of the argument: I’d like to see both Wallace and Balducci off the city council) but I never would have argued to stop the work.

      2. Making lemonade. It’s still a bad idea and a bad alignment. I’ll be waiting to see how whole heartedly Bellevue voters endorse light rail next year when there’s a property tax measure on the ballot to actually pay for this pie in the sky. I wonder how many anti-Kemper voters realize that John Stokes thinks a surface alignment in DT Bellevue is just fine?

      3. A surface alignment is NOT fine. The entire length needs to be grade-separated; that’s the whole point of rail, and why we failed with Central Link. With East, we have a chance to build it right the FIRST time.

        The simple fact that buses contend with traffic makes them inferior to rail in terms of reliability and speed. But more than that, bus routes do not catalyze development. Rail does. This is key to downtown Bellevue’s expansion east of 405.

    2. I don’t tend to look at elections as referendums for or against a certain position, but Kemper, Wallace, Robertson, and the like came out looking pretty bad in this election. All Kemper-supported candidates lost, not to mention the loss for 1125. Maybe Wallace & Co. are finally starting to see the light – Bellevue voters want light rail and they’re sick of powerful business interests trying to kill it.

  2. Some details about the MOU:

    The $100 million contribution is composed of “free money” for Bellevue. It allows for easements and right of way on city owned property and permits which ST would ordinarily have to pay for. The actual cost on Bellevue’s end is like $12-15 million of opportunity cost and some minor working capital expenditures related to purchasing some land earlier.

    The $60 million is backloaded as contingency and is all real money with up to $60 million in costs to Bellevue

    There is an off-ramp at 60% design if the council decides to play chicken with ST again. Hope this helps!

    1. Giving land to ST for free doesn’t quite count as “Free money” to me – they’d be well within their rights to charge for that ROW. Did Seattle get compensation for the median of MLK? Or did they barter that for something the way Bellevue now is?

      1. I thought the comensation Seattle got for the MLK ROW was betterments along that whole section. They got a brand new MLK.

      2. >> I call it free because the City doesn’t have any expenses for letting ST use it.

        So I can live rent-free in your spare bedroom? Don’t worry, I won’t shower in your house, I’ll bring my own flashlight and you don’t have to turn up the heat just for me. It won’t cost you anything to let me live there.

      3. @AP only if you will also rebuild my roof, paint the walls, and do other improvements around the house while you are staying with me.

      4. The “improvements” wouldn’t be necessary if Sound Transit wasn’t slamming a train through the middle of the city.

        This analogy has been stretched a bit far. Regardless, I don’t believe this is “free money” to Bellevue. Assets are assets, liquid or estate.

      5. The part that mystifies me in this whole discussion is how anyone can think that Bellevue is suffering in any way as a result of getting Link. This is the opportunity of a lifetime! 50 years from now, the only parts of the Seattle area that matter will be the parts that you can get to by train. Building Link to Bellevue will ensure its prosperity for decades to come.

        I’m not saying that construction doesn’t have impacts. It does. But it’s just bizarre to act like ST is doing Bellevue some great injustice by building Link — especially when Queen Anne/Fremont/Ballard are begging for the equivalent.

    2. Not quite. $40 million is “free” but $60 million is money bellevue must spend to buy property to give or share with Sound Transit. Then there’s the additonal $60 m contingency at the back end.

  3. I agree with everything about this project except it bypassing Crossroads, its winding, indirect alignment, using 112th instead of Bellevue Way, running next to a software company that probably won’t exist in 40 years, and destroying Bellevue’s only industrial area.

    1. Soooo… you’re saying that it should just end at S Bellevue P&R? Great concept! I’m amazed the Bellevue Council didn’t argue for this plan as a way to cut costs and avoid neighborhood impacts.

    2. winding, indirect alignment

      Take a look at the alignment from a-satellite-eye view, and it’s clear that it strictly follows the heaviest developed areas.

      It’s not the line that meanders, it’s the development that does. If it were to cut some corners to make a more direct route to Redmond, it would then bypass the densest corridors between Redmond and Bellevue. That’s just an unfortunate reality of the local land use patterns.

      using 112th instead of Bellevue Way

      All it would have taken to make that happen was more money. That alignment was killed because there wasn’t the funding for it. I would have loved to see it, but the almighty dollar intervened.

      running next to a software company that probably won’t exist in 40 years

      That’s not how monopolies work. And even after Microsoft is gone, long in the future, Overlake will continue to bristle with office buildings.

    3. “I agree with everything about this project except it bypassing Crossroads”

      Perhaps a future BRT line serving Renton, Factoria, Crossroads, OTC, and Kirkland? I’m not talking “BRT-Lite” like RapidRide is today, I’m talking serious BRT: Dedicated ROW in congested areas, center running stations, maybe even leaving open the option of using double articulated 80′ buses with completely dedicated ROW.

    4. @Sam: Your slam on Microsoft is brilliant! Way to go!

      Note: If Microsoft wasn’t here today you probably wouldn’t have a junior high school to attend.

    5. If Microsoft shrinks or folds, the complex can be redeveloped and made into something like Crossroads.

  4. I agree this removes a big element of political risk. What are the others? Not too early to begin preparing for battle, identifying the enemy’s weaknesses, and getting our arguments refined!

      1. Hogwash! There’s been an agreement in place since 1976 for rail on the bridge. WSDOT is on record as favoring it!

  5. Kemper Freeman Jr. has been uncharacteristically quiet since election day. I wonder what he’s thinking…

    1. Well, given his past rhetoric, I assume he’s silently fuming about how Sound Transit has brainwashed the voters and demonized his views, duping the ignorant masses into supporting an agenda which will kill any possibility of future prosperity for the region.

      I’m glad people are starting to see through his short-sighted and self-serving political stance.

    2. Despite his recent quietness, the sounds of breaking furniture and profanity were probably quite loud in and around his office.

    3. As a resident of this area since 1964, I can tell you what Kemper is thinking. Dollars and how to stop rail. In that order.

  6. This is a great step forward for Sound Transit, and I believe the rejection of Eyman’s initiative (by landslide level in King) and the easy reelection of the two pro-rail council members had to play a role in this vote. Stokes leads Laing by a hair’s breath, but it appears it won’t really matter. Litigating Eyman’s scattershot initiative is now something ST doesn’t have waste effort and money on. Olympia can’t ignore this margin of defeat, both as it relates to Link and regional tolling.

    If I recall, there’s still a suit filed by Freeman pending in state court, contesting the validity of the 1976 memo of understanding because of the source of freeway funding, but I’d wager the biggest threat to East Link will be the state of the economy over the next several years. The threat of further declining revenues hangs over all of the ST2 capital projects.

    Still, I’m heartened. This project is moving forward and has already overcome a lot. Getting Seattle, Mercer Island, and Bellevue on the same page has taken a long time, but the end result will be a grade-separated rail line connecting the CBDs of the two largest cities through the region’s most congested choke point. If there’s a killer app for a regional transit system serving Central Puget Sound, that’s it.

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