June 18th, 2012

The Honorable Pat McCarthy, Chair
Sound Transit Board of Directors
401 South Jackson Street
Seattle, WA 98104
The Honorable Conrad Lee, Mayor
Bellevue City Council
450 110th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004

Dear Chair McCarthy and Mayor Lee:

The Seattle Transit Blog (STB) Editorial Board is concerned about the Downtown Bellevue Station cost savings designs that the City of Bellevue and Sound Transit have identified through the Collaborative Design Process. As STB has reported, tens of millions of dollars in possible cost savings have been identified recently through the design process. This is good news and very welcome, especially when design changes reduce costs, reduce neighborhood impacts and improve operations of East Link.

However, changes that result in functional and irreparable reduction in the quality of Link are unacceptable.

Over two years ago the STB Board sent you an open letter indicating our support for the C11A (surface on 108thth) and C9T (tunnel under 110th). The C3T (tunnel under 108th Ave) is the ideal solution. We still hold that position.

Roughly $180 million to $235 million dollars have already been shaved from the ideal downtown tunnel proposals (C3T to C9T). These costs savings are a result of the shorter tunnel design, which also results in a poorer station location, located farther from the geographic center of Downtown Bellevue, increasing walking time to much of downtown Bellevue. We believed this was an acceptable compromise because it reduced East Link travel times and made a tunnel financially feasible.

However, the two proposed station cost saving designs currently under review unacceptably compromise the station design. The downtown Bellevue Station is the most important station of the whole $2.4 billion dollar line and the STB Board finds the cost savings proposals short sighted.

The NE 6th St Station design is wholly unacceptable and defeats the purpose of the downtown tunnel. It reduces walk access to employment and housing throughout downtown Bellevue, results in slower travel times due to substandard curves and will result in inferior passenger comfort. It also has little TOD or development advantage over other station designs.

The Stacked Tunnel design, while better than the NE 6th design, results in reduced station accessibility due to elimination of station access on the west side of 110th Ave, reduces vehicular capacity on 110th Ave (which could degrade transit speed and reliability at the Bellevue Transit Center  immediately adjacent), and eliminates the possibility of a center platform design which improves ease of use and safety while waiting. These compromises are not worth the estimated $8-13 million dollars in savings.

Thus, the STB Board urges you to cease work on these cost savings designs as they are unacceptable compromises in the quality of an investment the region will rely on for decades.


Seattle Transit Blog Editorial Board


Bellevue City Council
ST Board of Directors
Joni Earl, Sound Transit CEO
Steve Sarkozy, Bellevue City Manager

18 Replies to “Open Letter: ST, Bellevue Shouldn’t Advance Station Cost Saving Designs”

    1. – Roughly $180 million to $235 millions dollars …
      – The downtown Bellevue Station is the most important station of the whole $2.4 billion dollar line …

      1. You can use $ or “dollars” in a description of an amount of money, but not both. It really diminishes the effect of the argument when you constantly use both.

      2. Done. Thanks guys. I’m obviously horrible at proof reading when in a bind. Didn’t realize till this morning that that council was deciding tonight which to move forward.

  1. “The Stacked Tunnel design, while better than the NE 6th design, results in reduced station accessibility due to elimination of station access on the east side of 110th Ave”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this, the stacked tunnel design has both entrances on the east side of 110th.

    “…which also results in a poorer station location, located further from the geographic center of Downtown Bellevue…”

    Should be farther, not further. :-)

    1. Because of the mezzanine C9T “as adopted” would allow station access from the west side of 110th. Basically in the Transit Center. Both the stacked tunnel and the shallow no mezzanine design move station access to the east side of 110th in what is now the area of the northbound travel lane. The shallow tunnel mitigates this by not requiring a second set of stairs and travel across a mezzanine. Reduced traffic flow on 110th further mitigates the issue of crossing the street.

      Note that the issue will be decided in tonights Study Session prior to the Council meeting at 8PM. There is no public comment at the study session so writing to council is the only way to make your thoughts known prior to their decision.

      Send email to council@bellevuewa.gov

      1. I understand the issue, the way it was originally written in the letter made no sense. It’s been updated since then.

  2. …and will result in inferior passenger comfort.

    It’s a fact, but some people reading the letter will laugh at that. Surely there’s something to say that more folks will recognize as important?

  3. Dear Editorial Board: Leaving 1/2 Bil on the table doesn’t seem to register on the ‘Important Meter’ hanging on your walls. Bellevue cannot justify 3 stops, 4/10 mile apart, for 8,000 boardings a day. Please think outside the box. Please consider how much more transit (and riders) 1/2 Bil would buy and how many cars could be retired. The arguments you’ve put forward are weak at best. Here’s what I said several days ago here on an open thread, and got one response in support.
    “How much is an extra rider worth in construction cost?
    Is $200,000 per rider worth it, or can transit find a different new rider somewhere else for less?
    The current angst over downtown Bellevue is searching for ways to save some money, but ignore the obvious. Why build a tunnel at all, with the associated hard left and right turns and extra length costing up to $1.025 Bil to capture a few extra riders per day when other solutions exist that save up to $450 Mil? (ref: Elink FEIS seg.C)
    I’ve been advocating for remaining elevated on 112th, with a station next to City Hall (C7E), then making a softer right turn over I-405 to the BNSF ROW (C14E), coupled with covered moving sidewalks to both BTC and Overlake Hospital.
    This only cost the system somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 riders per day by 2030. I would argue they can be found in downtown Bellevue with better E-W crossings of I-405 with a nearly level Ped/Bike xing to stitch together the existing downtown and the next big high rise boom along NE 116th (auto row).
    It seems that saving time (it’s a shorter route with two fewer stops), and money (1/2 Bil), risk (tunnel v. elev), and fixing the unbearable crossing of 405 on NE 8th would trump an extra couple of minutes to get to the bus bays.
    Perhaps the extra riders come from Overlake TC and Redmond because the total trip to Seattle would be several minutes faster.
    Construction doesn’t start until 2016, so there is still time to get this right.”
    cc: Bellevue City Council, ST Board, Bellevue Reporter, Seattle Times

    1. Dear mic,

      As usual you’re a little late to the party. The time for this was before the FEIS was complete and before the federal record of decision.

      1. Those are paper documents. Not granite tablets etched with heiroglyphs, and ST isn’t asking for any Fed. New Starts money so who gives a crap about ROD with the FTA?

      2. besides, the FTA Region 10 Administrator isn’t stupid enough to send a letter to ST, denying their application for an amended FEIS and ROD to save a 1/2 Bil.
        Fox News and Friends would love to get cc’ed on that one.
        “FTA says No Way Jose, on saving money” That would make the GSA party goers look like a bunch of nuns on a picnic.

      3. The costs weren’t any different two years ago when the decision was made. Sorry, but the squabbling over routing is done, and it took far too long as it was. I don’t think anyone is going to be revisiting it based on some comments on a blog.

  4. Rhetorically speaking, I think you get to your main thesis too far in. If your thesis is that “the two proposed station cost saving designs currently under review unacceptably compromise the station design,” it (or a more broadly phrased version of it) should be in the first or second sentence, not the fifth paragraph down.

    How about this for a first sentence instead:

    “The Seattle Transit Blog (STB) Editorial Board is deeply concerned that the proposed Downtown Bellevue Station cost savings designs will cripple the operations of East Link for decades to come.”

    You might want to consider using the phrase “penny wise and pound foolish” at some point.

    But your point is well taken and thank you for taking the time to make it.

    1. As far as I can tell, nothing. Of course the discussion exceeded the time available in the study session so it was continued in the regular session. I went home and watched on BTV for as long as I could stay awake. It’s recorded so I’ll go back and watch more this evening. Public comment was predictable but interesting.

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