Three of the East Link maintenance facility study locations

The blurb is enough to show the Times didn’t investigate this story at all:

“Bellevue City Council members are angry Sound Transit didn’t tell them it was considering building a large rail yard in the city last year”

Basically, anti-rail Bellevue City Council members Kevin Wallace and Jennifer Robertson have found a new way to oppose East Link. They claim that they had no idea that Sound Transit was considering maintenance facility locations in Bellevue! No idea at all!

Except that not only have these identical maintenance facility locations been in the final environmental impact statement for East Link for over a year, they were also in the draft environmental impact statement published in 2008 (see section 2, “alternatives considered”). They’ve even been displayed at Sound Transit open houses – including at least one physically in Bellevue City Hall. Furthermore, comments on maintenance facility options are included in correspondence dating as far back as 2009 between the City of Bellevue and Sound Transit on East Link options.

Given that I’ve personally spoken to more than one Bellevue City Council member about possibilities for a maintenance facility, and that it came up in the investigation of council member Kevin Wallace, it’s clearly a falsehood that they are in any way surprised about this part of the East Link project.

The Times says one thing to try to cover this ridiculous allegation:

“But Sound Transit officials told Bellevue in 2009 they had decided instead to locate a major rail yard south of Seattle and store a limited number of trains on the Eastside.”

In discussions I’ve had with Sound Transit staff, that option has never been a long term solution, and I don’t believe that a rail yard was ever cancelled, just delayed.

The supposed paper of record for our region shows significant bias in this piece, and fails to fact check Bellevue city council members, or accurately portray their knowledge of the largest infrastructure project in their city. I look forward to a correction from the Seattle Times.

72 Replies to “Bellevue Council Spins Tales, Seattle Times Repeats Them”

  1. I saw the headline in a newspaper box downtown today: it smelled like the kind of lurid and baseless Times reporting that Goldy over at the Stranger loves to pick on — I’m glad to see this quick response from STB. Unfortunately, the damage may already be done: many Times readers will subconsciously mark this up as a reason not to trust Sound Transit.

    Man, I miss the PI.

    1. I wish one of our regions wealthy businessman would decide it would be a cool vanity project to buy up what remains of the PI and rebuild it as an alternative to the Times.

      1. People still read the Times? I thought it existed basically for the breakfast crowd at the Rainier Club to validate each other’s existence, and provide retirement income for under-achieving baby boomers.

  2. FYI from Jennifer Robinson’s campaign website –

    Light Rail

    Eastlink light rail is coming to Bellevue and will help shape the face of the City for the next century. This is a 100-year project that must be “built right the first time.” This means siting the Eastlink line sensitively for neighborhoods and making sure that the route chosen will be fast, safe, efficient, and accessible. Jennifer has brought both passion and knowledge to this project and she continues to support excellence along the alignment in all parts of Bellevue. Her past experience as the co-chair of the Bellevue Light Rail Best Practices Committee has provided a level of knowledge that has served the citizens well.

    Are we talking about the same Jennifer Robinson?

      1. I think it’s pretty obvious that she knew the whole time (especially as her name is on documents that reference it from the last couple of years) and is playing this up for PR.

      1. In Bellevue, that’s code for “run it down industrial corridors where no one in a single family house will ever have to acknowledge a train’s existence. Oh, wait, if we run it down industrial corridors no one will ride it. Oh, darn!”

      2. Avgeek Joe from Skagit County, I meant that in this particular case she is using that as a code word for NIMBY. Not that neighborhoods will always be NIMBYs. She’s saying something that in this context means “not in our neighborhoods.”

        I should have said “dog whistle” instead of “code word” anyway. It’s not a word.

  3. Bellevue got played. They thought there were going to remake the area into an upscale neighborhood, but now they’re going to get a giant, noisy and unsightly Balmer or Argo yard plopped down into the middle of the future Spring District.

      1. Ok, I’m sorry. But I do have an honest question. From the blurb in the Times, “Bellevue City Council members are angry Sound Transit didn’t tell them it was considering building a large rail yard in the city last year”

        Could the emphasis be on the word “large?” In other words, they aren’t claiming they new nothing about a proposed rail yard, rather it’s just that they didn’t weren’t informed it would be a large rail yard.

      2. Sam, the size and locations of the options have not changed in four years. See how I link to the 2008 DEIS? The map from 2011 (that I put at the top of the post) is identical to the map in the DEIS.

      3. Ben, as I’ve noted below, some of the proposed locations have changed since the East Link EIS was completed.

      4. DEIS, December 2008, page ES-41 (emphasis mine)

        A new maintenance facility would be needed with full build out of the East Link Project to provide for light maintenance activities without traveling to Sound Transit’s primary maintenance facility in Seattle, and it would provide for vehicle storage beyond the capacity of the Seattle facility. A site of
        approximately 10 to 15 acres would be needed to allow for maintenance and storage of up to about 40 light rail cars.
        In Segment D, the maintenance facilities alternatives would all be located within current light industrial or commercial areas of the Bel-Red Neighborhood.

      5. 1) I’d never heard of the Fred Meyer site being considered until this latest salvo from ST. 2) Full build out of East Link would mean segment E and what ST had indicated was their preferred site at Marymoor. 3) ST has doubled the size from 40 cars to 80 cars and increased the land requirement to 25 acres. That’s driven not by a “full build out of the East Link Project” but by the need for extra cars to serve the North Link extension to Lynnwood. So yeah, I’m a bit surprised.

      6. And on the very next page, they list the acreage required to make use of the various sites as:
        MF1: 21.9 to 24.1
        MF2: 26 to 26.9
        MF3: 19.3 to 27.6
        MF4: 16.5 to 19.6

      7. “2) Full build out of East Link would mean segment E and what ST had indicated was their preferred site at Marymoor. ”

        Hmmm. So you’re saying that Bellevue should raise its local taxes in order to fund early construction of segment E, so that ST can use the Marymoor site immediately? Makes sense, but doesn’t sound like the attitude of the Bellevue City Council.

      8. Since the precedent has been set I think ST should go to Redmond and ask for $160 million if they want Link to reach them. However, Redmond has since indicated they have absolutely no desire to loose any of their property tax base to a rail yard either. In fact it appears they don’t want light rail at all since they bought the BNSF ROW in DT with the intention of pushing the street grid through to Redmond Town Center. ST has already negotiate a deal for the International Paper site so from here on out it’s just a matter of paying to have the EIS show that’s the best site.

      9. “The Fred Meyer site” means the actual Fred Meyer at 148th & 20th? That was the store we most frequently went to when I was growing up in the area (besides Safeway of course), and if I lived there now it would probably be the same. So I’d hate to see Fred Meyer driven out of the area, although of course it could set up shop somewhere else. One hopes Fred Meyer would build a new mixed-use development in the Bel-Red area (like the Safeway in downtown Bellevue and on Madison). But if it just left Overlake entirely, it would be a loss to the area.

      10. Yes, it actually means the Fred Meyer site. However, it was an asinine idea to begin with and I believe the ST board has narrowed it’s list down to the what’s shown as MF2 and MF3 plus the Lynnwood site. MF3 is highly unlikely and only really being pushed forward for study so that there is an alternative should some endangered species be found on the old IP box factory site. To buy MF3 would require buying out and paying to relocate 30+ business on something like 25 parcels.

  4. Sheesh, I wish there was a way we could take all the energy being practically wasted on East Link and put that enthusiasm towards North Link. I would love to be able to ride from Shoreline to the airport in less than 10 years.

    1. Cinesea – do you know of anyone trying to accelerate Sound Transit? Maybe you should get involved with them? :)

      1. I have mentioned this in passing in the past and the basic answer is that there is no way to accelerate the process because of permits, environmental studies, etc. I just wish it wouldn’t take so long. Impatient? Hell yes! I still haven’t heard an answer from anyone on here, or Sound Transit, about how to speed up the actual construction once the routing has been figured out, the environmental studies completed, and permits issued. If there was a way to get multiple crews working on the actual construction, I would think that would speed up the process by at least two or three years. Why couldn’t there be a crew working at the University District stations, another crew in the Roosevelt area, another crew at Northgate and another crew at Mountlake Terrace? All building the light rail line and stations, and meeting together, much like construction of the national railways culminating in the golden spike somewhere?

      2. I can imagine a variety of reasons that Sound Transit might be taking the time and care they are with their projects. It might be that they want to have more control the project by not bidding multiple segments as a single project. e.g. risk management. If a vendor becomes problematic, they can be downgraded for consideration for future segments.

        But, it also concerns me that this choice might make the overall project more expensive in the start up and shut down of each segment. e.g. contractors come online, staffing, insurance, accounting, communications, logistics have to be resourced for each of these projects. Even the boring machines are custom made for each project. That seems a bit wasteful to me.

        Here’s an idea, if we know that we are going to be building light rail for the next couple of decades, lets put together a tunnel construction “authority” or division or what ever you want to call it. Set up standards for productivity e.g. so many miles bored per year and provide a budget. Utilize outside contractors for the finish work e.g. laying track, electrical, HVAC, network etc. It would probably be significantly cheaper for the taxpayers but our construction tycoons would scream socialism after they screamed bloody murder.

      3. In WWII we could build a liberty ship in a few days from start to finish. I’d love to see that kind of effort being put toward finishing all of ourt various long-term transit projects. For christ’s sake the University Link tunnels are sitting there quietly right now, waiting until Monday morning for work to resume. How about we throw three shifts at it with some healthy bonuses for early completion. I’d gladly add the cost of that to my property taxes, payroll taxes, you name it.

      4. Cinesea, North Link has about three years in it that’s purely because of lack of capital. Many of these projects could be significantly faster with more money.

      5. I always wonder if it would just mean more money up front to speed up the actual construction of the light rail system. To me, it seems like it would ultimately be cheaper to spend more money now, get another construction crew or two and finish the job three or four years sooner. Sure, the upfront cost would be more, but wouldn’t it be cheaper overall since you’re not paying higher future construction costs and you would also begin getting riders to pay for the product?

      6. Cinesea: yes, it would be cheaper overall to do it faster, and better for the local economy, *unless you were paying high interest rates to borrow the money*. That’s the one caveat.

    2. I agree tthat it would be nice id planning and construction could move at a less than glacial rate, but I remind that for some of us who first voted for transit in 1968 and 1970, we waited not 10 but 40 years for service to begin.
      Meanwhie, please get involved with, and donate time and money to Settle Subway who really are trying to speed up the game.

    3. Cinesa– SOund Transit broke ground on North Link in July. It is UNDER CONSTRUCTION. You will get your wish.

  5. I am glad you’ve corrected the Times on this because I do agree that is what’s happening here.

    Strange though, I saw the headline and picked up the paper in the coffee shop today and expected to read how Bellevue Councilmembers were mad that Sound Transit is proposing to mess up their TOD plans with a 20 acre railyard. Bah. If only.

  6. While it’s true that the possibility of maintenance facilities was discussed in the East Link DEIS and the FEIS, it turns out that two of the four Bellevue sites being evaluated as MF sites were not included in the FEIS. These are the Cadman site on 130th NE and the Fred Meyer/Chuck E Cheese site at 148th NE and NE 24th. That said, the MF will undergo an environmental review of its own.

    Three of the four sites in Bellevue are pretty dumb places to put it from a built environment, perspective. The only one that really makes sense is the former International Paper site(MF2 in the drawing above).

    1. aw, do you have a link to those other potential sites in any Sound Transit documentation?

      1. So, basically, Sound Transit said “hey, we should also look at these other sites”, a new decision, and the City Council is saying “you should have told us earlier” when there wasn’t really any earlier to tell it?

  7. Someone at The Times pulled the story off the main page and buried it in a link farm on the local news page. Not sure if this was regular business or the result of a flood of comments and emails.

  8. Although I agree that members of the Bellevue City council are being duplicitous, the fact of the matter is they are right. It’s just poor land use to put a yard within 1/2 mile of a light rail station. The land within 1/2 mile of the stations should be reserved for very dense development. A train yard is anything but dense.

    I have a simple request for Sound Transit: choose a location for the rail yard not within a 10 minute walk of a light rail station. There are only going to be a few stations, we need to squeeze every bit of TOD we can out of them, and taking out a chunk of prime real estate for something like this seems like very short term thinking.

    1. There is another consideration. Switching operators is something that will be done near the yard. If that’s also a station, it prevents an extra stop.

  9. I thought that _The Stranger_ was “Seattle’s Only Newspaper”.

    Speaking of “paper of record”, there’s some set of official rules in each municipality regarding what papers legal notices are printed in. That’s what “paper of record” actually means. I suggest that some effort be made to make sure that the legal notices are printed in real news outlets, not in the Seattle Times. I’m sure the real news outlets could use the business.

    1. That was supposed to be a reply to Stephen’s comment about locating a rail yard next to a station.

  10. There are claims further down in the story that size is, in fact, the issue. Sarkozy & Roberts appear to accuse Sound Transit of pulling a fast one on Bellevue.

    Think what you will of Bellevue (I know already: Seattle Transit Blog readers hate Bellevue with a passion) but this wouldn’t be the first time that Sound Transit has tried to obscure their plans. Sound Transit is known around here for railroading.

    From the story:
    City Manager Steve Sarkozy said that when Sound Transit informed him it wanted to buy the International Paper property, he didn’t realize the agency was looking for such a large site. He didn’t inform the City Council of the possible transaction, which has not taken place, because he didn’t realize the agency was looking at building so large a rail yard.

    The City Council approved an agreement with Sound Transit in November 2011. Sound Transit briefed city staff and the council on its search for a rail-yard site this past summer.

    Now the transit agency and the city are at loggerheads over whether to combine discussions about the rail yard with ongoing talks about route, stations and cost.

    After a very open route discussion, Sarkozy said, “How can one element of this be so hush-hush and not connected to the other? This is in our community and we’re concerned about the collective impacts.”

    Saying the rail yard is a separate project from the East Link rail line “really seems disingenuous and not the way a partner should treat a partner,” Councilwoman Robertson said.

    1. I don’t “hate Bellevue with a passion” and in fact kind of like the place for the most part. It is building a very dynamic skyline but Bellevue needs to make itself less isolated in terms of visionary transportation thinking for the area. All of the fights over 112th are standing in the way of good ideas and have held this project up for too long. Sound Transit voters approved this line and nothing much has happened with it since we did. We do not need a Bellevue process to rival the Seattle one at this point.

    2. If size is indeed the issue, maybe it makes sense to build two smaller MFs, one on East Link and one on Lynwood Link. A smaller rail yard at the International Paper site might allow for an ST coach yard as suggested by a scoping comment from KCMetro.

      The Central Link MF should remain the place for major maintenance. The sattellite MF(s) should be oriented toward minor maintenance, cleaning and layover.

      1. Interesting idea. How much more would that mean in added costs for two of each cleaning facility, minor maintenance barn, etc.? Might Bellevue be willing to help pay for those? Or would multiple instances of those be required anyway for the number of trains involved?

      2. Even if it costs a little more, maybe it makes sense in terms of reducing the resistance of the community to the MF. Reduce the pain, spread the gain (in jobs).

        Maybe ST should ask Federal Way if they would like a maintenance facility in order to get a light rail extension sooner. :^)

      3. Unfortunately, with the minimum-headway rules for street-running on MLK, a Federal Way OM facility won’t be able to serve anything north of Tukwila. There was an ST document saying as much; I’m afraid I can’t remember the title… :(

    3. Your timeline is messed up, and perhaps so is the paper’s. It looks to me like ST told the city manager about all this in October, over a month before they did the deal on East Link. The key phrase there is “He didn’t inform the city council…”

  11. I have to confess that I never really thought about a maintenance base for Link trains either and so it was actually a shock to me whether it ought or ought not to have been to the Bellevue City Council.

    I can see why they might be pissed though unless Sound Transit can blend it in well with the neighborhood.

    I am disappointed that this is yet another matter that has to be resolved with bellevue. Yes, Bellevue is tedious and we need to get this going soon for otherwise, nothing will happen. I also don’t know how to resolve this if it truly is a shock to Bellevue as they claim it to be. None of the sites will be close to the central business district, but beyond that, I have nothing to add to this debate other than to hope that cool heads prevail. Bellevue needs to move forward and Sound Transit needs to discuss possible mitigating design elements to keep all of them happy. Without either happening, we will just grind on.

    1. You already know it’s not a shock to Bellevue – they’ve been involved in these discussions for four years. I linked to documents proving that.

  12. Tim, I don’t know you. My comment about Seattle Transit Blog readers hating Bellevue was meant to reflect the general attitude in comments when a story is about–or touches on–Bellevue.

    Let’s not rehash the 112th alignment argument. People who live here still believe Sound Transit f***ed up royally. People who don’t live here believe Sound Transit can do no harm. When the center of downtown Bellevue moves to be the hospital instead of the mall, we’ll all laugh at how stupid it was to put a train down a street filled with single-family homes and sprawling office parks.

    As for whether Bellevue’s process should rival Seattle’s, I’m all for it. Friction in politics is what keeps corrupt or inept government officials from railroading the people. I support East Link, but I’m damn glad my elected officials are there to protect me from Sound Transit.

    1. If only the Bellevue City Council actually talked about the issue of walkability.

      Of course, with parking minimums in Bel-Red such as they are and the plan for a 140 foot wide right of way, people aren’t going to be walking in Bel-Red anyway.

  13. Mmmm, looking at Marymoor there is one 20 acre parcel available. Although now I believe it is being used for Park parking. I pulled up the info on Parcel Viewer and low and behold, guess who owns it? Looks like it was purchased around 2000.

    1. What you see is the Marymoor Bellevue Baseball Complex, which is owned by Bellevue, but operated by King County. I think it would be a big PR problem/hassle if they wanted to put a MF there, even if it hastens East Link getting to DT Redmond.

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