South Plaza View
South Plaza View

[UPDATE: I forgot to link to the materials. Here are the display boards and slides.]

On February 25th Sound Transit briefed the community around the future East Main Station, just south of Downtown Bellevue. Trains will take riders from there to Chinatown in 16 minutes and Overlake Transit Center in 14. ST projects 2,500 daily boardings in 2030, which is middling by present-day Central Link standards but low for 2030.

Unlike the promise to encase the neighborhood around South Bellevue Station in single-family amber, the presentation states that almost three-quarters of the quarter-mile circle may have “potential” for TOD. In the figure below, the whole upper left-quadrant (everything above and to the left of the colored lines, in the Surrey Downs neighborhood) is the only area not under consideration. Ultimately, the zoning will be up to the City of Bellevue. Unfortunately, a significant portion of that area is consumed by I-405:


Indeed, the Surrey Downs neighborhood’s total lack of interest in benefiting from the light rail project looms over several aspects of the design. In particular, note that both entrances to the station are on 112th Ave SE, facing away from Surrey Downs, and indeed there is a large retaining and sound wall shielding residents from any inkling of (or easy access to) the Station. It’s regrettable for the cost-effectiveness of the project (and future Surrey Downs residents), but Sound Transit is right to focus on where the population growth can occur.


Although there are two entry points, and they are understated enough to provide a short walk from the street, there are other regrettable aspects of the design. It may not be surprising that the precious land near the south portal will be given over to a park, rather than a more intensive use, but it is a shame. More importantly, the geometry of the station and portal places the nearest entry point about 400′ from Main St, which is the main cross street and the main access point for both the downtown Bellevue street grid and I-405 crossings. Every foot north the station moves exponentially increases the walkshed.

Construction will begin in 2015 and finish by 2023.

62 Replies to “East Main Station 60% Design”

  1. Sounds like a great opportunity to bury Interstate 405 and put something more useful above it.

    1. Like double decking I-405? We’ll put Bertha on the job, just as soon as we finish your CRC.
      I’m still scratching my head where the 75% TOD area is. Maybe converting hotel rooms to low income housing?

      1. The one-story Red Lion Inn would be replaced by a ten-story hotel with a smaller footprint, and the rest of the TOD would go in the parking lots of the other parcels.

        The most unfortunate thing in the southeast quadrant is a tiny slip road from 12th & Main to 114th. It’s not really visible in the picture but it’s next to the “row of trees” south of Main east of 112th. Main Street goes at that point to bridge over 405, and the slip road goes down to 114th (the frontage road on the west side of 405). That cuts a triangle out of TOD-land which is probably too small to build on, but large enough to be annoying dead space. I wonder if it’s possible to delete that road. It is a significant bike path according to the signs, but it would be easy to put a bike path in a new development. There’s nothing on 114th/118th to attract bicycles, but it’s a way to get down to the Bellefield woods and Lake Hills Connector and South Bellevue P&R. (Although you can do those on 112th too, so who needs 114th?)

      2. who needs 114th?

        Bikers who don’t care to get entangled in the major through-traffic on 112th?

        But as long as there’s still some way through the ToD, I’m fine with it.

      3. That page is wrong. That’s I-290, the Eisenhower Expressway.

    2. The record of doing something useful with lid space (rather than empty parks) is not a strong one. I suppose it would at least extend this station’s walkshed.

      1. Have there really been that many attempts though?

        In the past there has been a fallacy that sufficient space needs to be provided for additional lanes, so highway departments haven’t wanted to do much above highways. The reality is that in a freeway trench through an urban area, the ability to have an ever-expanding sprawl of more and more lanes really isn’t that good an option. As it turns out, people do in fact have a limit to what they want to pay for – even in highway construction.

      2. @Glenn: Mercer Island, Mt. Baker, the Convention Center to name three in Seattle alone.

      3. The 520 lids at Montlake, Evergreen Pt. Road and 92nd Ave NE will have a transit component anyway.

      4. @aw – but unfortunately not at Bellevue Way, which would have been a great location for a connection between Kirkland-Bellevue service and Redmond-UW service utilizing what for all intents and purposes will be decent BRT at least as far as Montlake.

        (heck, if they could have figured out a way to retain the freeway stop and Montlake and create one at 10th Avenue E for transfers to Capitol Hill buses, it would actually make a great high capacity bus corridor. Unfortunately the 10th Avenue E stop would probably be too close to I-5 to allow something like that to be built.)

        It seems as though once again “the bus” was missed in holistically planning transit possibilities on this extremely expensive corridor rebuild. But hey, at least all those transit riders in Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point will have some pretty spiffy high-end bus stops! ;-)

      5. The convention center seems to work OK. Freeway Park would be nicer if there wasn’t so much traffic noise. However, I am not suggesting it be a park. As popular as huge open parking lots seem to be in Bellevue, perhaps putting one there would work?

    3. Tunnels any way you construct them (cut-and-cover, soft-bore, deep-bore) are expensive over its lifetime. Maintenance and operation would be costly. The existing Mt Baker Ridge Tunnel and Mercer Island Lid cost the state well North of $2 million to operate. These costs include staff and utility costs. The utility costs alone are a huge part of the budget (lighting and life support systems including air supply/exhaust).

      1. Extended tunnels that require ventilation, certainly. However, in the case of the Chicago post office built over Interstate 90, the distance covered really isn’t any more than a somewhat wide overpass.

        Maybe cover the big ugly highway with a bigger, uglier park and ride lot?

        I am guessing that someone thought that putting the station here would be a good idea due to hotel guests or some such.

      1. The convention center is going to expand in a few years and I wouldn’t be surprised if they propose an extension of freeway park to connect the expansion to the old convention center.

  2. @mic: it’s a flat out lie. over a third of the circle is Surrey Downs, which the design of the station and expressed intention of the City of Bellevue elimninates as possible TOD. Moreover, essentially all of the are east of I-405 is more than a 1/4 mile walk from the station, since you have to walk North to Main and then turn 90 degrees to cross the Freeway. I’d be surprised if as much as a third of that circle is actually devlopable; and that’s being genorous — does anyone really think that the Bellevue club or the Doubletree is going anywhere?

    1. Given the extra stop at Main St, with few riders from Surrey, across the freeway, or from hotel guests willing to ride from the airport to DSTT and backtrack to Bellevue, I don’t see even 2,500 daily boardings for this this stop. The four hard, wheel screeching turns to enter the DBTT (Downtown Bellevue Transit Tunnel) to get to the real transit center will probably be under a permanent 25mph slow order, then more stopping.
      But the pain doesn’t end there. It’s a quick S-turn across I-405 to the next station stop at NE 8th, a whopping 1/3 mile away.
      I can’t imagine all this slow running, which add minutes for the trip from Overlake, can pencil out to create more riders than it chases away.
      Did Bellevue really need all these stops?
      Sorry about being too political above!

      1. It is astounding to see a route which takes tight turns for the purpose of going into a tunnel one block to the west, and then has no stops in said tunnel. I understand having a station on each side of the I-405 barrier, but the Downtown Bellevue route is looney.

        Of course, with this new tunnel, you then get a pointless stop. The walkshed from Surrey Downs would be OK, except that it’s being specifically eliminated!

  3. Much more TOD opportunity and a better walk shed on Bellevue Way, with the added benefit of avoiding Surrey Downs. Without a Bellevue Way alignment the tunnel is a waste of money. Why isn’t ST looking into this? They chose 112th BEFORE a downtown tunnel was decided and fit it into the plan – for what??

    1. A Bellevue Way alignment was studied for the DEIS and was rejected for high cost, traffic disruption during construction and the high number of property relocations needed.

      1. Cost? Well then I’m so glad Bellevue and ST could find the money for a pointless tunnel.

  4. A station in the middle of nowhere. I don’t understand who or what it is supposed to serve, or why ST should bother to build it or have trains take the time to stop. (And I know the area — I grew up less than a mile from this station site.)

    Downtown Bellevue is on the other side of a giant hill, which can only be climbed on a narrow sidewalk along a 5-lane street with no buffer.

    Future “auto row” development will be across the freeway and several blocks north, better served by the main Bellevue station. Bellevue City Hall is also across the freeway. And the bridge across the freeway is aggressively pedestrian-unfriendly.

    The adjacent residential neighborhood is doing its best to wall itself off from the riffraff.

    The only parcels that are truly close are two hotels, surrounded by acres of parking, a luxury car dealer that’s not moving anytime soon, and a couple of isolated mid-rise office towers, also surrounded by parking.

    1. This station is mere feet closer to DT Bellevue than the vision line – and much much more expensive. Thanks ST!!

    2. “Bellevue City Hall is also across the freeway”

      They must have moved it while you weren’t looking.

      1. So they did. And I knew that… I had just forgotten. I grew up with Bellevue City Hall where the Lexus dealer is now, and that’s just Where It Is in my outdated mind.

      2. How perfectly stereotypical that Bellevue City Hall was replaced by a car dealership…

        (I hope I’m just joking. Between the bike plan and the Transit Master Plan, It looks like things might be starting to get better in Bellevue. But this station siting and the useless downtown tunnel show we have a ways to go.)

      3. When I went to the open house at the Red Lion I saw the police station complex east of the freeway and thought, “Is that where the library used to be?” The current police complex is depressing because it’s so sprawling, and you could put a lot of TOD in that footprint and it would support a frequent Main Street bus. But I doubt the city wants to redevelop its newish police complex.

      4. Another former Bellevue resident that’s behind the times. Yes, the site of the former police complex is the former site of the library, but it’s now the Lexus dealership. But the former Lexus dealership is easy walking distance to the station and looks to be offices nowadays.

      5. OK, I was looking east from 112th and it looked like a police complex, and if there was a car dealership next to that I forgot about it. Because I don’t care about cars, and all the dealerships on 116th are the same as far as I’m concerned. But it’s still very sprawling whatever it is.

  5. It’s unfortunate they jogged south there. This isn’t a bus route – you don’t need to connect to busy roads. Put it in what is now neighborhood space and will be midrise mixed use, and that circle moves 3 blocks north. You can connect with the arterial after the station.

    1. And by “south” I mean “east”. I was turned around, and didn’t see the north arrow.

  6. Martin, you don’t do your case or our cause any good by treating parks the same as parking lots. If you want people to freely accept living together with less physical space between dwellings, you need to add a certain amount of attractive outdoor space as part of the design.

    Whatever the details of your ultimate vision, I hope you are not planning to impose any of it by coercion. It’s bad enough that our opponents constantly cry about being tyranized without it happening. Better to approach the situation like I do: point out that oppression is being forced to use a car where it’s hateful.

    With well-designed development, parks are indeed densely used. And there’s no reason whatever that interstate highways can’t be “lidded”. Jim Ellis planned for Freeway Park to extend the whole length of Downtown Seattle. There’s also no reason why the parts of this highway system which go through dense urban areas, as Dwight Eisenhower never intended, can’t be converted to either transit alignments or parks- or both.


    1. I’m a big fan of parks. Quite often they play a big part in establishing and encouraging denser development. For example, if you live a couple blocks from Green Lake, in an apartment, you don’t need a backyard. The lake is your backyard (complete with a great playground for the kids). Similarly, with the added parkland in Maple Leaf (since they capped the water reservoir) they should up-zone a lot of the neighborhood. Park oriented development, if you will.

      But you shouldn’t put a transit station right next to a park (for the type of system we are building, with very few stations widely spread apart). Nobody lives in the park, so you are reducing the number of people who can walk a short distance to the entrance. Ideally, the park should be on one side of the neighborhood, and the station should be on the other (surrounded by development).

      1. Maybe they’re including the possible arrival of a tent city in the park as potential TOD to help get to the 3/4 figure?

    2. Amen, Mark, Amen. The antipathy toward parks here borders on the absurd. No offense, anyone.

  7. Is it okay to say, at least in East Main’s case, that ST is as bad at station placement as they are good at contraction management?

    Does anyone know the official reason why this location was chosen? Hotel lobby? Needed a station in between South Bellevue Station and Bellevue Station? Or couldn’t screw-over Surrey Downs twice? In other words, yes, SD didn’t want the line going next to their neighborhood to begin with, but they would be even more pissed off if they got the noise and blocked access of the line, but no nearby station.

    1. I can’t help but think that they go hand in hand. ST is paranoid about cost overruns and wants to keep the prices really low. Basically, they are cheap when it comes to the stations. If this was the only flawed station, I wouldn’t mind too much, but we have a lot of flawed stations (both built and planned).

      1. But ST aren’t really building cheap stations. It’s esy to stay on budget when you goldplate everything.

    2. “Needed a station in between South Bellevue Station and Bellevue Station?”
      From what I can tell this is it. Also, refusal to build stations underground.

    3. The reason is that South Bellevue to BTC was considered too wide stop spacing, so they had to put a station somewhere. There were several proposed locations including SE 8th Street, but Surrey Downs’ persistent opposition to trains or stations led to the current location, which is at the boundary between the neighborhood and downtown zoning. There was also a desire to have the station close to Main Street because there’s growing development there a few blocks west. (An ideal station would be at Bellevue Way & Main Street.)

      I’m not worried about low ridership. It’s a throwaway station like 145th. The main point is Bellevue TC station and Bellevue-Seattle mobility. If we have to add a throwaway station to get that achieved, it’s worth it.

      1. Mike, I’m going to object to your statement that Surrey Downs’ persistent objections led to that placement. If I recall correctly, most Surrey Downs people had no desire to have a station at Main St, especially because the BTC station was (at the time) going to have an access point between 2nd and 4th St. By the time the route was decided–west of 112th, so as to protect the Bellevue Club’s precious tennis courts–the Surrey Downs people mostly gave up and just tried to make the best of a bad situation.

        This ridiculous station placement and the tunnel that jogs east then west again for no reason are to be blamed mostly on Sound Transit, with the remainder of blame being shared amongst the various political gripers out there (Surrey Downs, Bellevue City Council, Seattle Transit Blog, etc., etc.)

    4. Sam, once the train route was fixed on the west side of 112th and in a tunnel, most Surrey Downs residents lobbied for a SE 8th St. station. But Sound Transit came up with figures saying that there were all kinds of people who would walk to a train at Main St, so that’s where the station was placed.

      Myself, I wouldn’t want to ride a train that stopped four times in a mile, but that’s just a personal opinion. I’d likely walk up to 12th St. and avoid all the unnecessary stations.

  8. This station is located in an area that I suspect will have lots of drop-off and pick-up activity, and I have to wonder how messy it’s going to get when it opens. With smart phones in wide use these days, it’s a mode of access that is not going away. The spaces allocated here probably won’t be enough, and there will be lots of dangerous loading or unloading that will occur in traffic lanes because of it.

  9. The neighborhood is so against the Link that they don’t even want a passage through the sound wall to access the station???? That’s crazy beyond belief. What about the servants and nannies who’ll have to walk an extra five or six blocks to get to the house?

    Think about them!

    1. I’m not sure that’s totally right. The station is at about SE 1st or 2nd. Is it too far to walk up to the future park and down to the station? Is the emergency-access road at 2nd or 4th going to be blocked to peds/bikes as well as cars? Will the sound wall go all the way from 1st to 8th with no break except the emergency-access road?

      1. It’s hard to see how you could build a road accessible to fire trucks that would block bikes and peds.

      2. It will have gates on both ends which the trucks will remotely activate. So it depends on what kind of barriers they are. If they’re just to block cars as I assume, there’s no problem, and the road seems to me a convenient enough walk to the station. But if they’re wall-to-wall barriers with no way to walk through, then it’s a larger problem. I could see fire trucks not wanting peds/bikes on the street when they go through, and asking for a wall-to-wall barrier. Of course, if they put a sidewalk next to the road then there would less likely be peds in the road.

    2. Anandakos, there are actually two pedestrian accesses from the neighborhood to the station: one at SE 1st St, one at SE 4th St (assuming you can walk through the emergency barriers.)

      Now, on to your more ridiculous statement about servants and nannies. Surrey Downs is filled with 60 year old houses that range from 850 square feet on up. Yes, some of the newer houses are tri-levels built in the 70’s and are a couple thousand square feet. But the neighborhood is predominantly filled with retired folks who have lived in their modest homes most of their lives. These folks couldn’t afford to buy their houses today and likely don’t have maid service, let alone servants and nannies.

      In short, please take your ridiculous, ignorant biases elsewhere.

    3. I don’t know, but I suspect the inconvenient access from the neighborhood to the station is about keeping out light rail riders, whoever they think that might be.

      After all, I ride Link, and I would keep me out too. :-)

      1. There is pedestrian access from Surrey Downs to the East Main Station right by the last letter of the word “Station” on the picture you included on the post. Essentially, SE 1st St. will be closed for traffic but will have a punch-through to the (empty) park on the corner. That’s also right where the station will be.

        So no, it’s actually not about keeping light rail riders out of the neighborhood. Because there’s another station *just six blocks away* I expect that most of the pitifully few riders at this station will be from the neighborhood.

      2. AP,

        Here are more detailed drawings:

        I think having people walk to the end of the road in their neighborhood, cross their park, and then backtrack roughly 300′ to the North Entry plaza is pretty indirect. I disagree that the park is “right where the station will be” when you consider where the entrances are.

        I’m not a huge fan of this station, but six blocks is not crazy small stop spacing for an edge city downtown, especially since the entrance is well below Main St.

      3. OK, I’ll grant you on the first point: the access is a bit far away from the station. But to your original assertion, people from the neighborhood were asking for access at the design meeting (even though ST had just said it would be there…)

        As for six block spacing, I’m far more worried about how long it will take East Link to transit downtown Bellevue. I’m afraid I might be quicker on foot :)

  10. C’mon folks, you all talk as if this station will exist in a static state. Neither it, nor the surrounding land use, nor the existing council governing such things, will remain in a static state. The presence of this station will change how this area is viewed and how it is used by people in and around the area. Perhaps not overnight, but bit by bit as those in charge now cycle out, and those unburdened with the baggage of the past cycle in.

    My look at the 1/4 mile circle reveal large tracts of under utilized land all along the eastern side of the station, mostly hospitality and surface parking. The market will correct this eventually. In addition, the area north of the station within the downtown grid is ripe for higher value use. The price per square foot and current rents in the immediate vicinity confirm this. And while I don’t have high hopes for a pedestrian pathway requiring a freeway crossing from the east, I will bet that within a decade of there will be talk in Bellevue about duplicating in this area what Redmond is doing with bike/ped access across 520 in Overlake.

    Glass is half full, people. This is a major investment that is going to cause a major shift in how this area is used.

    1. I agree with what you’re saying. Eventually the station will change the area. The only problem is there’s just so little land to change. A freeway on one side. Residential community and hill on the other. The slim tract you mentioned, between 112th and 405, is about the only place change can happen.

    2. What worries me is that the lack of upzoning in Surrey Downs will cause house prices there and throughout Bellevue to rise because housing availability will not keep up with the population. I’m sure many long-time families in Surrey Downs are of moderate means (or were when they bought their house), just as the Bellevue I grew up in was more moderate-income than it is now. But eventually these owners will die and have no heirs and the houses will be sold, and the new buyers will be significantly richer, reflecting the value of a SFH so close to downtown Bellevue, and that will make the neighborhood more universally upscale, and moderate-income people akin to the former owners will be out of the picture.

  11. Look, all the passengers in the photo are ghosts. Passing through noise walls is not a problem.

  12. This house is actually in that circle. About 2 blocks west of where the station will be, actually. I looked at it when it was for sale. I liked it, but at a half million dollars, felt it was over-priced. There are a few Mithun-designed homes in Surrey Downs.

    1. That house is about 3 blocks west of the station. It’s around 1000 square feet and has three tiny bedrooms (only one big enough for a queen bed) and a single bathroom. The house has barely been in 60 years. The old owners gave it a superficial face lift to help sell and the new owners put insulation in the walls and on the roof when they moved in.

      The house to the south is a brand-new McMansion. The owners tore down a 1950’s classic Mithun-designed home and built as big of a house they could squeeze on the lot. The house to the north was Mithun’s model home in 1952. The owners remodeled it a few years back but kept elements from the original design.

      None of the residents in these three houses have servants. The folks in the McMansion might have a nannie but they don’t really talk to their neighbors so we’d have no way of knowing.

      The cost of half a million dollars purely reflects the value of the dirt. In some ways, the folks in Surrey Downs are doing themselves a disservice by holding onto the homes they’ve had for decades. The world would be far better served if Kemper Freeman or John Su could force the city to change zoning so that they could snatch up the properties cheaply and build a 42-story residential tower.

      Oh, by the way, the 42-story residential towers just to the north of these houses have units that start around half a million dollars. But when you cram people into a common elevator every morning as they leave for work you at least have the opportunity to say hello and find out if they have servants or nannies.

      So Sam, Mike and my dear friend Anandakos, middle and lower income people are already priced way the heck out of downtown Bellevue. This train exists to bring low-income workers into the city, not to take high-income workers out.

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