by BERNIE HAYDEN
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.