NE 6th Outdoor Station Concept (Sound Transit)

A Bellevue City Council Study Session was held Monday June 11th to discuss which cost savings alternatives to move forward pursuant to the the City Contingency of up to $60m. The steering committee, comprised of Bellevue and Sound Transit staff, presented the options it felt warranted further study. The Bellevue half of the Leadership Committee, made up Bellevue council members Wallace, Robertson and Stokes summarized the results of their recommendations, which were pretty much in line with the Steering Committee. The full City Council will vote next Monday, June 18th on what options to move forward and the ST board will do the same on June 28th.

In South Bellevue the option preferred for the Winters House was to shift Bellevue Way west and add a southbound center HOV lane. This would save an estimated $6-10m over a retained cut to preserve access to the Winters house. It has the side benefit of reducing impacts on the wetland buffer. It would involve cutting back into the hillside which has Surrey Downs residents concerned. Moving the Winters house was thought to be too risky and there were questions over excavation for the retained cut possibly causing structural damage to the historic home.

Along 112th the idea of closing SE 4th and extending SE 8th was deemed dead on arrival. The Leadership Committee is committed to looking at alternative neighborhood access and eliminating the retained cut under SE 4th with the eye on saving $5-9m. That seems counter to the new proposal, which is currently thought to be cost neutral, of using a 5′ deep retained cut and building an overpass for 112th Ave SE rather than the flyover for East Link. Both the refinement at the Winters House and along 112th improve light rail operations by minimizing elevation changes.

Downtown, the recommendation was to advance the stacked tunnel over the no mezzanine design and to advance the open air station on NE 6th. The cost savings for the stacked tunnel were double the range given for the no mezzanine; $8-13m vs $4-7m. It was also thought to reduce construction impact and result in station entrances less disruptive to traffic on 110th Ave NE. Personally, I thought the traffic calming feature of the reconfigured 110th were a plus for the no mezzanine design. Nobody mentioned the extra time it will take in vertical distance to access the lower platform or operational cost and unreliability of the extra sets of escalators. In contrast, a center platform would seem to be a large cost savings and improve operations.

The open air station on NE 6th was also recommended for further study. The cost savings could be $10-18m, but one has to question spending $320m on a tunnel and then moving the station outside and closer to the freeway. The other incentive is no traffic impact to 110th and less disruption than building an underground station. Keeping the East Main Station mitigates some of the lost walkshed of losing the station entrance south of NE 4th but at the expense of everyone in the Bellefield/Wilburton area. Other issues with the station on NE 6th are impacts to police operations and visitors parking. It also limits development of the Metro site at NE 6th and 112th Ave NE, which has been mentioned as a possible location for a new fire station. Hopefully the full Council will put this recommendation to bed next week before any more money is wasted on studies and engineering.

49 Replies to “Bellevue East Link Study Session Report”

  1. Dangling a $60 million dollar carrot in front of the City Council will make for some interesting design changes. Stay tuned!

  2. As you said its ridiculous to degrade the quality and access of East Link’s most important station to save $8-18 million dollars. The other cost saving measures have little functional impact on East Link users, but these do. I just don’t see enough cost saving benefit of any of the station designs to warrant the changes.

    1. I dont really see any downside to the stacked tunnel alignment. I think the no-mezzanine design would be better, but the difference between the two seems small.

      1. The stacked tunnel will reduce NE 110th to 2 lanes N/S which would essentially mean buses can never run down it. It will also put both entrances on the east side of NE 110th and they will be closer spaced. This will make it harder to access the station and essentially most users to cross NE 110th. Since BTC is a large transfer station I also think for security reasons its important to have a single center platform design. This means that more people will be on the platform at any one time. A station mezzanine will allow for possible underground access points, in the future.

      2. As far as I can tell both the stacked tunnel and the shallow option (no mezzanine) have essentially an identical footprint on 110th. Both put the station access in what is now the east most traffic lane. A deeper tunnel with a mezzanine would have the platform in virtually the exact same position. It might be shifted slightly farther south to allow for the additional stairs but that means your farther from the TC which is going to be the most used entrance. I think the perception that it improves access to the south is only because you enter sooner but you travel farther underground. The important component of the southern entrance is that it be south of NE 4th so that people don’t have to cross that major arterial (2nd only to NE 8th) on the surface.

        I don’t believe the road diet on 110th precludes buses in the future but even if it did I’d give that up for the improved pedestrian environment and having just one N/S street you can cycle on without getting squashed. I can see it being local access transit only akin to 3rd in DT Seattle. I asked about flipping the design so that the station entrances are west of 110th and the answer is existing buildings and their garage access make that next to impossible. It would definitely be preferable but is mitigated to a great degree by assuring that 110th vehicle throughput will be restricted.

      3. @Bernie: I fully agree. If 110th were bus/emergency/pedestrian only, two lanes would easily be adequate.

      4. @ap, two lanes, one each direction, isn’t adequate; it’s optimal. And you left out local access which is key. I’m not a party to the war on cars; I just want to avoid being killed by one.

      5. Not to quibble, Bernie, but local access isn’t strictly necessary. Most of the businesses along the center of 110th have entrances on either 108th or 112th.

      6. There really isn’t that much traffic on 110th to begin with (at least between NE 4th and NE 6th, most of it is in the morning and evening when people are entering/leaving garage entrances along 110th.

        You can’t close 110th to general traffic due to the garage entrances and loading docks along 110th though.

  3. Or just, you know, give up some parking ROW and run the trains on the street like Portland does.

    1. Better yet, don’t build the Hospital Stn, but instead put street rails on the section going over I-405 with signs on either end:
      Walk & Bike (green)
      Don’t Walk & Bike (red
      Walk really, really fast (yellow)

    2. No no no no no no. Maybe in Redmond, but Bellevue is NOT the terminus for this line. You can’t put half the riders reliability in jeopardy by running in mixed ROW. You know how drivers around here are.

      1. Redmond politicians and staff have made it clear that it’s not to be at-grade on high volume roads because priority should be on moving the light rail and passengers. That’s why it gets priority an exclusivity the whole length of its right-of-way. The City is serious about HCT. Don’t tell us that we should make a crap line in our jurisdiction just because Bellevue is dysfunctional.

      2. Can we exchange the Bellevue and Redmond governments? The city names can either be exchanged or left as-is. Or we could create an intermediate city in between called Overlake.

    3. We’re trying to get to 55 mph trains, not 30 mph with traffic crossings. That was one of MAX’s big mistakes.

      1. For the distances traveled it probably doesn’t make much difference.

        What we ended up with is the worst of all possible worlds…a “light” technology which should have been implemented quickly and cheaply at grade, that has been turned into a monstrosity by over building.

      2. It could be done right. MAX is not /that/ bad and Bellevue is not nearly as big or crowded as Portland is. Bellevue’s streets are very wide and there would have been plenty of room to run Link at grade if the city were committed to giving trains the space they need.

        The pictured station location pushes the station nearly to 405 anyway. Why not keep the train on 112th after East Main station instead of jaunting over to tunnel below downtown, just to move east again??? This doesn’t make any sense.

      3. The station is not “almost at 405” because that would be 114th. This is just east of 110th. The beauty of the daylight station is that the track can remain flat and the hillside automatically transitions it from underground to elevated.

        I don’t prefer either station over the other, as long as people don’t have to walk uphill from the daylight station to the TC. (I think that may require a raised sidewalk to the station entrance, if the normal sidewalk descends.)

        Also, I don’t see the housing at NE 4th as being more valuable or numerous than the housing north of the station, from 8th to 12th, in terms of walk distance.

    4. Portland Max, for all it’s glory is slow and awful in Portland’s city centre. It’s a toy, not rapid transit. We shouldn’t mimic that nonsense.

      1. MAX moves pretty quickly along it’s at-grade sections in central Portland (at least as compared to the Portland Streetcar and Tri-Met buses.)

        The biggest issues I saw with the surface proposals for Downtown Bellevue is they had surface crossings of NE 8th. There is no good way to make that work without either backing up traffic on NE 8th, or by making trains wait for cars on NE 8th. If you can do at-grade while still having a grade separated crossing of NE 8th then most of the problems of a surface alignment go away, especially if LINK is given good signal priority/preemption.

        However that ship has sailed as they say.

      2. Did the surface alternatives really have the train intersecting NE 8th? I think all proposals became elevated east of BTC because of that problem.

  4. The open air station on NE 6th was also recommended for further study. The cost savings could be $10-18m, but one has to question spending $320m on a tunnel and then moving the station outside and closer to the freeway.

    Upon seeing the illustration at the top of the post and this comment, I had to wonder: What’s the point of grade-separating the line to improve operations by putting it in a tunnel under the east side of downtown if the primary rider access point is moved further from where the majority of riders want to go? If the station is being moved outside the tunnel east of 110th NE, why not elevate the line over 112th NE, build the station over the southbound lanes adjacent to City Hall, and resurrect portions of Wallace’s ridiculous “Vision Line” station concept to build a moving walkway up the hill to BTC? I know this station location would defeat the whole purpose of having a walkshed that encompasses the entire CBD — and it’s certainly not something I would actually support — but if ST and CoB are serious about cost savings and reducing construction risk, that certainly seems like an option they might want to pursue.

    1. Rail has always pointed to it’s superior walkshed (1/2 mi) as part of the justification over bus lines (1/4 mi). Closer stops can be justified in dense CBD’s, like Seattle and larger downtowns, but that’s not the case here in Bellevue.
      A half mile radius covers then entire commercial section of downtown in Bellevue, plus the front door of the mall, SE2nd, Library, Hospital and much of the next high rise boom on the eastside of I405.
      The station on NE 6th is well positioned to do all that, and yes, the tunnel will have lost it’s purpose at that point… unless you love to hear the sound of ‘wheel squeal’ in the morning as the train makes all the minimum radius curves to follow the tunnel alignment. Maybe that’s the best alert to when the next train arrives, because you’ll hear it coming for blocks away echoing through the tubes.

      1. More like .7 miles to Bellevue Square. Not that many people are going to make the decision to shop at B’square based on distance from Link but there is a lot of highrise residential right across the street and more on the books. And you have to count vertical distance and time not just distance pounding the pavement to get an reasonable idea of walkshed. As far as east of the freeway that’s just plain wrong. a 1/2 mile gets you to the corner of NE 8th St and 116th Ave NE or to the corner of NE 4th and 116th. Hospital/Whole foods is closer to NE 4th than a station on NE 6th would be. A half mile from the TC barely gets you to reception at Overlake Medical Center (the start of Bellevue’s Medical Mile) and that requires playing Frogger on NE 8th!.

        Look at the numbers. The current downtown workforce is over 40 thousand. The “daytime population” is 56,000. The forecast for 2030 is to almost double.One station doesn’t cut it.

      2. One station is plenty. ST docs show 70,000 daily riders for 2 UW stations by 2030. EIS shows 45,000 daily riders by 2030 for all of East Link, and 8.000 daily boardings for downtown Bellevue. (
        I think your exaggerating the case for 3 stops, all in a half mile walkshed, and NO, I didn’t count taking an elevator up high-rises which is really a stretch, even for making a point on STB.
        How do you stand on the ped xing for Northgate to NSCC? Does your thinking preclude a similar bridge (or two) over I-405?

      3. Beware of statistics saying a minimum build is “adequate” or that 8,000 boardings justifies only one station. The issue is what’s most convenient for riders. Walking across 405 may be technically within a 10-minute walkshed but it gets irritating if you do it day after day. We want transit to be the most convenient way to get around, not always taking second place to automobiles. If east of 405 is being prepared to become an east half of downtown, it deserves a station. It’s a lot easier to get walkable development there than to convince single-family neighborhoods to accept upzones.

        SLU is becoming an exension of downtown Seattle, and maybe one day we won’t be able to tell any difference in the size of the buildings north and south of Denny. If 116th will do the same in Bellevue over the next 20-30 years, with a downtown stretching to 116th & Northup Way, we should encourage it with a station there.

      4. Counting daily riders works for airports but not local transit. Waterloo on the London Underground serves over 220,000 people daily. Does that mean there should only be one station in Seattle? The metric the City uses is 5 min and 10 min walk time to percentage of jobs and residences. They really did timed studies. The 1/2 mile is a ROT based on an average uninterupted walking speed; 3mph works out to exactly .5 miles in 10 minutes. Crossing NE 4th or NE 8th is obviously night and day different than crossing NE 6th. And forget about crossing 405 on foot unless you’re willing to hike down to Main St or up to NE 12th once the ped/bike path is opened. The selling point for the station under 110th is the entrance south of NE 4th (28k average weekday traffic count). With that location East Main, which is weak to begin with and really problematic with the C9T alignment can be shifted south to serve Bellefield/Wilburton.

      5. How do you stand on the ped xing for Northgate to NSCC? Does your thinking preclude a similar bridge (or two) over I-405?

        Looking at where WSDOT has put ped bridges over 405 (NE 60th, NE80th and NE 100th) I don’t understand why there isn’t already one across I-5 at Northgate. The long term plan is to extend NE 6th which will include a mid town ped/bike crossing of 405 but that’s unfunded and will likely be primarily or entirely City of Bellevue funded.

        That said Northgate is a far cry from being DT Bellevue. Even with the proposed rezone to 150′ heights; Bellevue is already at 400′. West of I-5 the only large “plots” are Washelli and Evergreen Cemeteries. I know people are dieing to get in but it’s not going to do much for transit ridership. Northwest Hospital is a little smaller than Overlake and it’s not going to get a Group Health and Childrens next door. If North Link were to cross I-5 and follow SR-99 then there might be sufficient reason to add a station. Conversely, if East Link were destined for Kirkland instead of Redmond it wouldn’t justify crossing I-405 just for the Hospital/Whole Foods Station.

      6. “Forget about crossing 405 on foot unless you’re willing to hike down to Main St or up to NE 12th once the ped/bike path is opened.”

        The only way I know to walk/bike across 405 is at NE 8th. That’s very boring and you have to watch the cars carefully at the freeway entrances/exits. All this construction at 4th/10th/12th started after I moved to Seattle so I’m not sure where it’s going. A 4th Street bridge to 120th would be wonderful but I’m not going to count on it if it’s unfinded. What’s happening with these other bridges and this ped path? Are they going to remove the sidewalks on NE 8th across 405?

    2. This NE 6th Outdoor station concept is crazy. It’s on top of 112th, so why build a tunnel downtown at all when Link is already running elevated up 112th to East Main?? At this point it seems we’re searching for a way to shoehorn a tunnel into the project…

      1. I agree, if you are going to bother with the NE 6th outdoor station you might as well keep Link on 112th and build an elevated station over 405 with pedestrian walkways to serve the people who would have used the BTC and Hospital stations.

        The question is would the reduction in cost justify the lower ridership you would have due to the smaller walk shed and being further from most of the important destinations in Downtown Bellevue?

      2. Putting the Bellevue Stn just south of NE6th, elevated above 112th, running N/S is by far superior to the existing C9T alignment, with or without moving the station to daylight.
        1. It’s far cheaper than a tunnel
        2. It’s much faster than all the hard 90 degree turns and slow running.
        3 More time is picked up by not stopping at Hospital or E.Main
        4. Moving, covered sidewalks to BTC, and above NE6th/HOV access to a Y going NE and SE to the BNSF bike trail is nearly a level pathway to the station, effectively making the walkshed 3/4 mile in most directions.
        5. The curves to cross I-405 are only 45 degree, allowing trains to run faster. (time saved for Overlake/Redmond riders will trump any loss of ridership by skipping two ‘very marginal stops’.
        6. Bellevue’s growth will be east of 405. When that happens, the station will be centrally located to all of downtown, not just the west part, and offer a bike/pedestrian level connection between all of it.
        This is too good to ignore. Wake up STB and smell the riders.

  5. Creativity sure seems to be enhanced by a set of strict limitations (financial realities). I’m not one to go for the “cheap” route at the expense of useful functionality, but these options seem pretty interesting. I wonder how much money could be saved for total grade separation if this level of enthusiasm/incentive-ness was applied to the whole system.

  6. Does this preclude building another downtown station in the future as Bellevue grows? Something nearer to the mall.

    1. That’s not going to happen. The best hope for a station closer to Bellvue Square would have been selecting one of the tunnel alignments in the DEIS. From a cost and impact perspective, the current plans are better. Besides, it seems to me that growth of DT Bellevue is as likely to happen to the east of the TC as west of it.

      1. >> growth of DT Bellevue is as likely to happen to the east of the TC as west of it
        …which is why putting the train on the BNSF tracks made sense.

      2. The fascination with the BNSF ROW makes no sense. Going over to the BNSF ROW means moving or deleting the South Bellevue station, increasing direct wetland impacts by crossing Mercer Slough, dealing with major geotechnical problems because a bunch of the BNSF ROW is on the side of a hill, and crossing I-405 somewhere around SE 8th Street probably. All this to make use of a ROW which is a quarter-mile east of I-405 and a half-mile east of the transit center (in a straight line; its longer to actually walk), completely bypassing all of the people and jobs that exist today in downtown Bellevue.

        Or in different terms, bypassing the biggest concentration of jobs and population on the Eastside. If you’re gonna do that, why bother building the line at all?

      3. the BNSF ROW means moving or deleting the South Bellevue station, increasing direct wetland impacts by crossing Mercer Slough, dealing with major geotechnical problems

        Blast from the past! Where exactly is this “South Bellevue station” with the current alignment? And do you believe there are no, or even less “geotechnical problems” with the 112th alignment through Bellefield?

      4. @Jason Rogers: The Mercer Slough goes from SE 6th Street to the lake if you measure by the area covered by swamp. The current alignment goes right through it. If you claim that a South Bellevue station would have been impossible going from I-90 to BNSF, I’m going to tell you you’re just not trying.

        As for “missing downtown”, I firmly believe that the train could have turned from BNSF by 2nd Street and head in a northwest direction to hit the transit center. We’ll definitely hit BNSF to go to Kirkland, and we’ll somehow manage to make it into Kirkland’s downtown. Trust me, we’ll figure it out somehow.

        I firmly believe that Sound Transit was obsessed with running down 112th because Kemper Freeman & co. prevented them from running down Bellevue Way. The route we have is short-sighted planning due to sour grapes.

        112th is NOT a major population center or jobs center on the Eastside. Even when you hit Bellevue downtown 112th is crowded with insignificant businesses–a restaurant that keeps closing, a couple of off-brand banks, and a hotel or two. This is really a business corridor worth protecting?

        112th is a way to get from I-90 to the Bellevue Transit Center, nothing more. The sad thing is that it goes through a neighborhood instead of going over an existing rail right of way. Sound Transit sold Bellevue a line of crap. It’s our job to make the best of it now.

      5. Three problems with the BNSF ROW:
        1. There wasn’t a good way to provide a transit center and P&R for access by riders coming from the East along I-90 or from South of I-90. South Bellevue P&R is right off 1-90. No the Mercer Island P&R or a Wilburton P&R would not have provided the same utility. (especially since the Lake Hills Connector and Richards roads are total cluster fucks if there is any traffic at all.)
        2. The BNSF alignment would have required going through the neighborhood along 118th NE. People may not realize this but there are a fair number of condos along there. The BNSF ROW is already very close to some of the condo buildings and would be even closer as the railbed would need to be widened to accommodate two tracks and a bike/ped path. This is much closer than the 112th alignment will pass to any residences.
        3. There is a huge elevation change between I-90 and Bellevue way and the railbed of the BNSF alignment where it crosses I-405. Not only would LINK have to cross Mercer Slough at I-90 but it would have to do so on very tall elevated structure.

      6. Oh and Kemper Freeman didn’t stop Sound Transit from going up Bellevue Way. The cost of the C1T tunnel, objections from the City of Bellevue and objections from residential communities along Bellevue way are what caused Sound Transit to drop the B1/C1T alignment. Most of the alignments in the original DEIS went up 112th with B7 being the only one that went up the BNSF ROW.

        Really 112th is all about the South Bellevue P&R.

      7. Considering the opposition both alignments engendered, which would have been “better”, all things considered, 112th or Bellevue Way?

  7. Does raising 112th mean that every intersection would have a ramp up to it on both sides?

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