The Sound Transit Board voted yesterday to recommend building a 25-acre rail yard in Bellevue near the Spring District real estate development in the Bel-Red Corridor.

Sound Transit looks to triple their current light rail fleet from 62 to 180, as well as expanding their light-rail system from 16 to 50 miles. Because of the projected growth, a new maintenance facility is needed to go along with the current facility in the Sodo neighborhood, as the latter is expected to reach its full capacity by 2020.

The BNSF site in Bellevue’s Bel-Red corridor west of 120th Avenue NE was among the four sites that Sound Transit narrowed down in the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) completed in May. The other sites considered were in Lynnwood and two other Bellevue locations, with one being adjacent to the SR-520 and the other being a modified version of the BNSF site. Detailed version of the site map for the original BNSF site can be found here.

Courtesy of Sound Transit
Courtesy of Sound Transit

The EIS considered a number of factors to measure the impact that would be left by the new light rail operations base including: noise and vibration; land use; visual and economic impacts; social, neighborhood, and social service impacts; and, impacts to parklands, open spaces, and other natural resources.

King County Executive Dow Constantine admitted that finding the right location for the rail yard has been a very challenging issue.

“Everyone is unanimous in wanting the facility to be somewhere else,” Constantine said. “It inevitably impacts homes, businesses, and property. But this is all about our future. The maintenance facility is the lynchpin to our ability to bring light rail across the entire region.”

All other alternatives proved to be more problematic than the chosen location. The SR-520 alternative, located just below Highway 520 and east of 130th Avenue Northeast, would have displaced more than 100 businesses in Plaza 520. The Lynnwood alternative was also an unpopular choice for local residents, as a petition in opposition of the site gathered about 1,300 signatures. Lynnwood City Council President Loren Simmonds said that the construction of the rail yard would displace the offices of the Edmonds School District and Washington State Department of Social and Heath Services.

Bellevue mayor and board member Claudia Balducci said that having the link operations maintenance facility in the BNSF site would be an “ironic choice.” Balducci explained that it would defeat the purpose of the Bel-Red Subarea Plan, which was designed to promote a high-density, mixed-used development in anticipation of 2023 opening the East Link light rail.

“The Bel-Red planning that we’ve done in Bellevue, that is integrated in light rail and dependent on light rail, was done years and years ago in 2008,” Balducci said. “Some of the frustration that you hear is the idea that this comes in now in 2014, and takes away the big chunk of our subarea plan. We could have worked around it if we had planned earlier.

Pierce County Pat McCarthy voted in favor of the Bellevue BNSF site because it is the least expensive location to build the facility at $345 million in capital costs, as opposed to $355 million in Lynnwood and $415 million in the BNFS modified location, and $385 million in the SR-520 alternative.

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien said that the BNSF location is the most cost-effective site among the four alternatives, but also sympathizes the concerns that Balducci and the city of Bellevue has over the site.

“There’s no other site or location that I could think of that we should do it at so I’m not sure what could have been done differently,” O’Brien said. “But I do want to be careful that we don’t leave operational dollars behind, because there is an opportunity cost to the foregone development that is going to happen out there. “

The board will not make a final decision until after publication of the Final EIS, which is expected to happen in late 2015. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2017 with completion in 2020.

91 Replies to “Sound Transit Selects BNSF site in Bellevue as Preferred Alternative for Rail Yard”

  1. I want to see if I understand this correctly. Years ago, Bellevue told Sound Transit they want East Link to go up the Bel-Red corridor because they want to create a new, SLU-like neighborhood in that area, called the Spring District. ST agreed to have the line run up Bel-Red, even encouraging and supporting Bellevue to redevelop the land into TOD. Then, only much later, does ST let Bellevue know that they plan on taking a large chunk of the Spring District land to use as a rail yard. Do I have my history right? Is that what happened?

    1. I don’t think that characterization is fair. For as long as I’ve heard about light rail planning in Bellevue this site has been considered as a rail yard. It was, and still is, a vast tract of warehouses and surface parking with no housing or retail. There is potential to develop it into a TOD, but only because the light rail is going in, which requires the rail yard to be somewhere. As long as the rail yard is built with some sensitivity to its planned neighbors it shouldn’t impact the ability to build a huge TOD within the same area.

    2. It’s not “much later”. ST’s been looking at large sites in the area for a good while and my guess is Bellevue “forgot” about it or assumed the O&M would be built elsewhere. The O&M as well as alignment came before Bellevue’s TOD plan.

      From the East Link DEIS:
      http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/projects/eastlink/deis/Appendix_G1_Drawings_Segment_D_Maintenance_Facilities.pdf

      The need for an east facility is identified as early as 2007
      http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/partners/erp/maint_facil_cost_est_detail1.pdf

      The board even voted on a BNSF site in 2006:
      http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/about/board/motions/2006/Motion%20M2006-87.pdf

    3. We all need to remember, this would be a “rail yard” wherein the rail vehicles are almost completely noiselessly powered by electricity. So no idling diesel switchers and no horns. Light Rail trains are semi-permanently coupled, so this “rail yard” will not “hump” or switch railcars, so no thunderous bangs at 3AM. It’s not Interbay Yard.

      This “rail yard” would also not be a bus garage with diesel buses starting up for the day at zero dark thirty on a wintry December morning.

      Instead it will be a place where trains are parked for the night and light maintenance is done to them. I have to admit to wondering why they put the maintenance building on the east side of the site, because it may from time to time emit some industrial sounds. We can hope the east and south sides of the facility will have significant sound walls.

      Yes, there will be floodlights, but if ST is smart and neighborly they can be pointed away from the new development. That and the loss of potentially developable land are really the only truly objectionable thing about it.

      1. It’s still 25 acres of land that would have been prime TOD, but instead will be used for essentially a rail storage facility. Bellevue’s complaint isn’t that the yard is in Bellevue, it’s that it’s taking away scarce land from the eastside’s version of SLU. I’m sure Seattle would complain if some agency came in and said they were taking 10% of SLU to use as a used tire storage yard. That said, this rail yard, which is basically the area between Lowe’s and Bellevue Audi, and 120th and 116th, is well hidden.

      2. The facility needs to go somewhere and there aren’t many choices. The current facility is on a huge parcel of prime industrial land that won’t fall into the Sound during an earthquake (something VERY scarce around here). Somebody else has to take a bullet for the team.

        If Bellevue didn’t fight ST for years on East Link, try to keep the line off Bellevue Way, and shove their downtown station almost as far east as possible from the core, maybe I’d feel some more sympathy for them. They spent a long time not being too helpful.

      3. The Spring District is quite different than SLU. For one thing, there’s a lot more land. For another, it’s a much longer walk to downtown Bellevue (and there’s a freeway in the way).

      4. Couldn’t they design the yard in such a way that future development could be built on top of it?

      5. The rail yard is going to be built next to the light rail. therefore, any area they choose for the rail yard would have been prime TOD opportunity area if they didn’t put a rail yard there.

        to P.I.: building on that area would increase the cost of said buildings by a large amount. That amount isn’t in the ST budget, and would have to be eaten by the developers doing the developing. That’s not to say it won’t happen eventually, but right now that land isn’t worth the cost.

      6. @Colin, yeah, theoretically anyplace next to a station has potential for TOD, but some have more potential then others. Development builds on development. That is why South Lake Union, after doing nothing for years and years, is now booming (with lots of new buildings). The Lynnwood station can never develop that big because it is surrounded by wetlands and a freeway.

      7. Sam, if you want, you are welcome to come down here to Portland and see how noisy the two shops MAX has are. Both are in residential neighborhoods. The worst part of them is the big concrete wall. Other than that, they are not especially noticed.

      8. In Boston, they’re still planning to build a new rail maintenance facility in Cambridge for the long-delayed Green Line Extension. Nobody seems to be worried about the loss of TOD potential. I think they’re putting a parking garage on top of it.

        Anyway, there is a real advantage to this site: employees can potentially get to work by train. Any facility site which *wasn’t* near a station would have the problematic character that all the employees would drive to work, which creates a problematic “corporate culture” at a public transit operator.

      9. Possibly Ignorant,

        They’re doing that in New York right now; there’s a huge new development going up west of Eight Avenue over the Long Island Railroad coach yard.

        But….

        It’s New York.

  2. Still the strangest thing for Bellevue continues to act like this is some sort of recent surprise that ST sprung on them. That site has been under consideration as an O&M since at least 2007.

    1. ST indicated during the EIS process that a Bellevue site wouldn’t be needed because the OMSF would eventually be located at the end of the line in Redmond. The EIS also contemplated a much smaller OSMF than the current 25 acre design.

  3. Big mistake. There is a lot more potential for TOD in Bellevue than in Lynnwood. North Link is I-5 alignment; I would be shocked if there is anything more than token TOD in Lynnwood in 10-15 years.

    1. Correct. Also, Spring District property = huge property tax money. These 25 acres, instead of throwing-off tens of millions of dollars per year in property tax revenue, will be generate zero property tax revenue. Bellevue had big plans for that land. Plans that would have generated a lot of tax revenue. I don’t think Lynwood had plans for improving their rail yard site. Sometimes I think transit nerds don’t know how government gets its money.

      1. At first glance, I agree with you. Generally speaking, transit centers function just fine even without TOD. They are designed to get people from buses to trains. Meanwhile, the 120th Station is not designed to be a transit center, but to attract walk up riders. So the Lynnwood station can function just fine without TOD, while the 120th station is dependent on it. Plus, the Lynnwood Park and Ride is not only close to the freeway, but also close to (I’m assuming) wetlands (Scriber Creek). North of there is prime for development, including more apartments, but that is about it. Meanwhile, the area around 120th doesn’t have nearly as many obstacles.

        I’ll be honest, I haven’t looked at this issue very hard. Has someone written a post making the case for Lynnwood over Bellevue? If so, I missed it. If not, why not?

        If the main reason this was chosen was either money, or because of a petition drive, then I think it was the wrong decision. Personally, I’m way more sympathetic to displacing government agencies than I am private businesses, so I wouldn’t have gone with the other Bellevue choices. A small business can go out of business if it is forced to move — that won’t happen to the school district or DSHS. Ultimately, that costs more, but personally I don’t think we should be so cheap. I would much rather tell folks “sorry, we aren’t going to go that far this round, but we are going to do it right”, than cut corners and deliver substandard service (or in this case, limit potential ridership and hurt urban growth potential).

      2. Haha, @RossB: This particular yard siting hits an even bigger blind spot than public transit agencies’ under-consideration of private-sector interests. That’s the blind spot of future interests. Any current businesses that would be displaced by a railyard are already slated to be displaced within a generation by Bellevue’s development plans.

        I think there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Bellevue’s plans for the area, but the City, with its concern for future tax revenue, is the only group taking future potential of the site into account. I’m not really convinced that ST committed a terrible error, but they may have come to a different decision if they considered future uses of the land on equal footing with current uses.

      3. Ross,

        I expect that ST prefers an East Side location because the East Side trains are to be turned back at Northgate, or so it’s currently planned. Therefore, any train entering service at Overlake would have to travel a very long distance to do so. Heck, any train enterng service at Northgate would have to travel a non-trivial distance from Lynnwood, but could do so for almost exactly the same cost from the existing MF.

        Now I agree that choppng a third of the potential of the Spring District off is a bad choice.

        The right thing to do is to borrow money from the North SA to extend to Redmond immediately and build the MF there.

        Maybe that’s the right way to get the Ballard-U district line built as a sort of “ST 2.5”. Let the East Side pay for a good part of it over time.

      4. “Therefore, any train entering service at Overlake from a Lynnwood maintenance facility would have to travel a very long distance to do so.

    2. Seems like ST simply can’t do TOD right. They build a Taj Mahal Tukwila station smack dab in the middle of a huge parking lot, they completely screw up the Mt. Baker station, they waste a big parcel of developable land near the Northgate station for a monstrous parking garage, they route the Shoreline portion up I-5 instead of Aurora where there is far better TOD potential, they site the downtown Bellevue station a long walk from the existing transit center, and now this.

      Yes, yes, I’m sure there are plenty of excuses that can be made to justify each of these decisions, cost, politics, etc. But taken as a whole there is a clear pattern at work here — whenever push comes to shove ST invariably seems to do the wrong thing.

    3. There might end up being less development in Lynnwood (although they have some moderately-ambitious pans), but there are key operational issues that make the Bellevue location attractive relative to the Lynnwood site, such as impacts to train headways and that storage tracks would still be needed at the BNSF site.

      From the Link OMSF DEIS:
      “The Lynnwood Alternative would require off-site storage tracks, duplicating some functions (such as LRV cleaning and operator reporting), and introducing logistical complications in operations (such as introducing the need to rotate LRVs between two separate locations to accomplish all maintenance). The Lynnwood Alternative would result in 15-minute headways after 6:30 p.m. on the Lynnwood to Overlake Transit Center operating line. This would result from the need to provide daily inspection and interior cleaning of 32 LRVs at the BNSF Storage Tracks so those vehicles are ready for the next morning’s deployment. The time needed to complete these functions at the BNSF Storage Tracks would require that these vehicles be removed from service earlier in the evening, resulting in longer headways after 6:30 p.m. This headway does not meet Sound Transit’s planned off-peak headway of 10 minutes until 10:00 p.m. This could also result in irregular spacing of trains after 6:30 p.m. north of the International District Station, where the two operating lines merge.”

  4. We’ve been told by some that there is no higher calling for land than TOD. So when prime land destined for TOD is taken off the table to be used for storage, and TOD zealots remain silent, or even support the decision, will that lessen their effectiveness in future fights for up-zoning?

    1. Again, do you know of a better location for the base? All the locations considered could have potentially had TOD. But a train needs a maintenance base just like it needs stations. A base can be contained with a fence and a beautiful mural. That’s much less obtrusive than 405 and its exit ramps.

      Also, the Times article says the board voted to “ensure transit-oriented development is maximized on the site of the facility”. There have already been unofficial ideas for this, such as housing on top of the railyard. So you may not even have to look at trains and the space between them.

      1. A 25 acre used tire yard needs to go somewhere in NYC. Do you look for a site in midtown Manhattan or Staten Island? “Now hold on a minute, Sam! Midtown Manhattan is already fully built-up, so that comparison isn’t fair!!!” Ok, you got me there, but then please give me this point. People who dumbly say, “Duh, well, da rail yard gotta go somewhere,” are equally ignorant.

        PS, is there a rail yard in mid to lower Manhattan? Or is there a rail yard in Brentwood or Beverly Hills? Where are Portland’s MAX’s rail yards? Have any of those cities put rail yards in upscale cities on land that was destined for TOD urban village?

        You people that are glad that “ST is sticking it to Bellevue,” are cutting off your nose to spite your face. You are saying no thank you to 25 acres of property tax revenue being generated by a SLU-like development on the eastside. We are talking tens of millions of dollars a year of lost tax revenue.

        That’s it for me for today. God bless America, and God bless Bellevue.

      2. I don’t know where MAX’s railyards are. Why don’t you research it and write an article? And “sticking it to Bellevue” is just in your imagination. I grew up in Bellevue and have relatives there, and I’ve been heavily supportive of having more pedestrian-friendly areas in Bellevue to make it easier to live there. The fact remains that the railyard needs to go somewhere, and you have not suggested another location. So I’ll do it for you: Redmond beyond downtown, or Covington. Those are the places where it’s least likely to displace TOD. But they’re way too far out to be feasable. Promoting the Lynnwood site when you’re in Bellevue is no more ingenuous than promoting the Bellevue site when you’re in Lynnwood: it’s trying to give the other guy the short end of the stick. Which is what Balducci did. But as Bellevue’s mayor she probably had a duty to. Still, we as thinking laymen and concerned citizens should be better than that.

        If Link is further extended to Everett, Redmond, and Tacoma, it will need another base beyond this one, so we may end up with both the 120th and the Lynnwood site being bases, in which case it doesn’t really matter which one was the first one.

      3. There are no longer rail yards in Manhattan, but there are at least three shop and maintenance facilities like this one will be.

      4. “PS, is there a rail yard in mid to lower Manhattan?”

        Yep. Look up “LIRR West Side Yard”.

        Also Metro-North “Madison Yard” and “Lexington Yard”, though parts of them were shut down recently.

        There’s also a yard in the most expensive part of Brooklyn, next to Atlantic Terminal / Flatbush Avenue.

      5. Where are Portland’s MAX’s rail yards?

        Actually, they do happen to be in the most “out of the way” area’s possible.

        Ruby Junction, the original yard, is in the Rockwood area of Gresham. It is basically in one of the last somewhat undeveloped areas halfway between Portland and Gresham, and near the site of a gravel quarry.

        Elmonica, on the Westside, in in the unincorporated area of Aloha, in between Beaverton and Hillsboro. It is also in an area that was the least populated area along the line when it was built, with other “industrial” uses and wetlands nearby, although there is a fair amount of TOD being built in the area now.

        To be fair, though, Tri-Met had the opportunity to be going through some relatively undeveloped areas when Max was built. ST doesn’t have the same kind luxury, as there are fewer choices for appropriate sites in the areas where Link lines are existing or proposed.

      6. Actually, Sam, there is indeed a rail yard, but it’s in Central Manhattan. It’s west of Eighth Avenue between 32nd and 34th Streets and belongs the Long Island railroad. It serves as its coach yard for trains which go out of service at New York Penn.

        AS WE SPEAK (well, methphorically) there is an enormous development underway above it. A bit more than wo weeks ago I rode through it four times. In fact, it is such a huge development that it will forever more close off western access to New York Penn, sooooo notwithstanding the bull-necked opposition of your Party of No favorite Chris Christie, construction has been delayed in order to dig the tunnels to allow the Access to the Regions Core (:ARC”) tunnels to be roughed in for the day when Chris Christie is sitting along in his bedroom listening to The Boss.

    2. I hate to agree with Sam, but without knowing more about it, I would say that Lynnwood is a better choice. Basically, it comes down to the lesser of evils. From what I can gather (and again, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know that much about the subject), it came down to this:

      1) Other Bellevue Locations — A lot of businesses would have to move. If a business moves, sometimes it destroys it (especially a small business). If you are a local restaurant, or a bar, you build up locals, and those locals might not go to your new location.

      2) Lynnwood — Big petition drive and some government agencies would have to move. I guess I don’t care about the petition drive. My guess is that these are folks who think this will be like Interbay, when it will be more like a big parking lot (something locals are all too familiar with). As far as the government agencies are concerned, it is inconvenient, but not exactly tragic. Every worker will still have a job. This area doesn’t have much in the way of TOD potential, nor does it need it (it is a transit center). It is surrounded by wetlands and a freeway, so even if they allow big buildings, there won’t be that many that close. Most of the riders will arrive by bus. My guess is the biggest negative here is money.

      3) Spring District — Big loss in TOD potential.

      So it seems to me that the big argument for putting this in the Spring District is financial. If that is the case, I think it would have worth trying to ask Bellevue to pay the difference (or some percentage of it). We are only talking 10 million versus Lynnwood. My guess is that Bellevue would pay that entire amount, knowing that it would get that back in a few years with property tax income. They might even pay for mitigation funds (to Lynnwood).

      1. Why is Bellevue complaining so much about the rail yard? There are already two bus garages just down the street. They’ve been there for many years and will continue to be there after the construction of the Spring District is complete. The presence of all those diesel buses hasn’t prevented the plans for the redevelopment of the area from going forward. A rail yard isn’t that different, except you could argue that it’s cleaner.

      2. The biggest problem with the Lynnwood site is it would require storage tracks in Bellevue and a mini-base for cleaning and driver reporting.

        Bear Creek/Marymoor site in the SEIS would likely have been a better location for the yard, but the yard is needed before rail is likely to reach that area.

      3. Thanks Chris, that is the type of information I was hoping someone could provide. Given that, I don’t think the decision was a bad one at all. Sound Transit had to pick a lesser of evils, and based on that little tidbit of information, Lynnwood is about as evil as the location they chose.

      4. Ross,

        A big quiet parking lot. No idling diesel switchers. No horns, No banging cars together switching at 3 AM. Quieter even than Metro North Base.

    3. Every time that King County doesn’t want something, it throws it’s weight around and forces one of the neighboring counties to take it. I am sorry, but it is about time that something ends up somewhere in King county.

      1. Other than the existing light rail depot at Beacon Hill, inside both King County and Seattle, you mean?

      2. lakecityrider
        If the initial Link alignment would have left King county, there would have been arguments and pushback to move it.
        I would give your argument higher weight if it would have been possible to build ST1 with the current OMF outside of King County ;)

      3. I’m genuinely curious to know what other things King County has tried to kick out of the county, particularly ones related to transit.

      4. A big part of the service area for Brightwater is in Snohomish County. Why shouldn’t it be located there?

    4. Mike Orr said, “and ‘sticking it to Bellevue’ is just in your imagination.” A commenter called Liberal WSU Cougar in the Seattle Times comment section said, AND I QUOTE: “I think it’s great they placed it here. After all Bellevue has done to delay and fight the light rail going through their city I like Sound Tranist giving them the middle finger for all their NIMBY attitudes when deciding where to place the line. I have no sympathy for the very rich, whiny folks in Bellevue.” So yes, many believe this is ST sticking it to Bellevue and teaching them a lesson for not laying down like other cities have done.

      As the elder statesman of this comment section, and one of the world’s leading and award-winning comment section journalists, and, as many view, this comment section’s unofficial moderator, it’s with great gravitas and solemnity I demand that you apologize to me forthwith.

      1. I must have misread one word in your comment. You wrote: “You people that are glad that “ST is sticking it to Bellevue,””. I didn’t see the “that” and thought you were saying that I and most STB commentators and staff want to stick it to Bellevue, which is wrong. Of course there are some people in the world who want to stick it to Bellevue.

      2. Wlow, when did Liberal OSU Couger ascend to the Sound Transit board? I didn’t know Pullman was in the district?

    5. Sam your perspective is way too narrow. For starters the site isn’t 25 acres, it’s 20. Next, the bel-red plan is 900 acres, making these 20 hardly “scarce” at 2% of the total. Third, the spring district station wasnt even in the ST2 plan, ST added it after the fact. That’s a more powerful action by far to help TOD — adding another access point. There’s way more land within that walk shed to be developed than will be used by part of this yard.

      There are in fact 6 stations in Bellevue and 10 total on east link. The half-mile walk shed around any station includes 500 total acres. That’s 3000 acres within walk sheds in Bellevue. Now obviously there won’t be a lot of TOD around south Bellevue any time soon. But if the city cares so much about TOD, why don’t they up zone around hospital station and Lake Bellevue, or East Main, or put the downtown station actually inside the tunnel instead of ocnsuming valuable land outside it? Why aren’t they screaming about the planned surface park and ride at 130th station?

      This issue requires viewing through a broader frame.

  5. Having a rail yard does not preclude high density development. Grand Central Station is topped by some of the highest density in the world, and the Penn Station yard is now getting a similar treatment. The financial boon for Sound Transit is to lease development rights above the rail yard. This is good for Bellevue, good for Sound Transit, good for the region, and the most fiscally responsible choice.

    1. Like Hudson Yards, it will probably take over 100 years before it makes sense to build above this railyard. Not that it makes a lot of sense to build above Hudson Yards even now.

      1. They’re already planning to build on top of the yards in Cambridge, MA. This area, of course, is nothing like that dense. The point is that building over electric railyards isn’t a problem.

    2. I stayed in a 7 story Hostel next to the main passenger rail yard and train station in Vienna, Austria. They neighborhood was very dense, and the trains were very quiet (all electric).

    3. Building over something like this isn’t a problem at all. This IKEA is built over parking at grade:

      https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.234701,-122.868638,3a,75y,94.28h,86.3t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s80rYVsOqPsw7ANYaRX2Yag!2e0?hl=en

      The level above the parking is the warehouse level so this is a very strong deck. This building is 5 acres and built on mushy ground. The parking level is not low like a parking garage, high enough for wires and light rail cars. Not that large format stores are TOD paragons, but there is no technical of even much of a financial limitation to this. It can’t have even been that expensive if IKEA thought it made more sense for the extra parking.

  6. Is there any reason why a later project couldn’t cap this and allow for development — housing, retail, etc, above it?

    1. Your answer is found above, in the comments. Short answer: Yes, maybe, but not until property values get really high.

      1. And the property values won’t get high enough until the hundreds of other acres of land within this district are developed first. This is not an impediment to the creation of a dense walkable neighborhood.

    2. Not only would values have to support it, but construction over an active operating facility would be nearly impossible. If a structure was built over it at the same time the OMSF was built, then maybe, but that would require having a development lined up right at the time of the OMSF construction, which is prior to the opening of light rail. Coming in at some later date would be disruptive to the opearations of the facility and therefore, probably not feasible.

      1. The facility should be designed with specific structural points for supporting an overbuild later; makes it much easier to do.

        It’s been done even when the facility wasn’t designed for it, but it’s a big pain. If you spec out spots where future support beams can be located, however, it’s pretty easy.

      2. They’re doing it right now over the LIRR coach yard west ot New York Penn. NJT sends trains through the Hudson tunnels about every three to four minutes during the peak, Amtrak slots in about eight per hour on top of that and of course LIRR terminates about thirty per hour in the coach yard.

        East Link’s operations are kids’ pay by comparison.

        Now it would be very wise for ST to plan for deck supports when it lays out the tracks.

  7. Do they honestly think they’re going to run out of developable land in Bel-Red? There’s as much land there as downtown Seattle and SLU combined.

  8. I think that Sound Transit AND Bellevue really screwed this one up. They should have supported the SR 520 site above the BNSF one. The reason is simple: the BNSF one is a huge maintenance facility RIGHT IN THE1/4 MI WALKSHED of one of east link stations.

    However, the SR 520 site is NOWHERE NEAR a station. Yes, it results in displacement of 100 business NOW — but when the spring district is fully build out there could have been 100’s of businesses, offices and 1000’s of residential units in the BNSF space — all within 1/4 mile of a rail station.

    Ultimately, it’s simple math. There’s limited buildable TOD space next to stations. ST shouldn’t be allowed to provide options that reduce it even further. The SR 520 results in some displacement today, but it’s much better for the health of light rail and Bellevue in general!

    1. For Claudia, it all comes down to how many Chamber of Commerce members she had to piss off. The 520 site–although preferable for many reasons–would have created 100 potential enemies in the next election.

      1. Sorry, the above is ad hominem. I meant “For politicians in the process…” of which Ms. Balducci is only one example.

    2. I am firmly of the belief that passenger rail maintenance facilities should be accessible by passenger rail. It creates the right attitude among the workers.

      1. …which means that “nowhere near a station” is BAD, and creates the wrong attitude among the workers.

  9. I actually think this is a reasonable decision. (Yes, surprise!) And not just because Claudia Balducci and Mars Hill Church lose.

    There is a ton of underdeveloped land between Bel-Red and Northup Way. The underdeveloped land is filled with low-rent businesses such as car repair joints, Pacific Topsoils, and commercial warehouses. Sticking a maintenance facility there fits right in. It doesn’t displace any homeowners and the businesses can put a clear dollar value on finding another location.

    There’s enough underdeveloped land between Bellevue downtown and Microsoft that we can still build a bunch of TOD. And when there’s enough built up to reasonably compare the Spring District to SLU, Sound Transit can sell their acreage for an amazing profit. And then we’ll discover that a Covington transit facility really wasn’t too far out to be useful.

    1. “And then we’ll discover that a Covington transit facility really wasn’t too far out to be useful.”

      I love your optimism about the future reach of rail in Seattle.

  10. Random thought: Does anyone have figures on how much it’d cost to extend the line to Redmond so the O&M facility could be built there? It probably would be far more than ten million dollars, but just in case…

    1. Looking at the aerials, I think it’s going to be MUCH harder to find suitable space in Redmond. Expect trains to be starting out from Bellevue in the morning even after the Redmond Town Center extension is done.

      1. The site mentioned in the East Link EIS was along 520 next to the NE corner of Marymoor park. There are a couple of churches and some warehouses there currently..

  11. I do not get the opposition to a maintenance facility. That’s going to be a lot of family-wage jobs once the facility is built, plus it can be landscaped & turned into a tourist attraction for train fans & transit fans alike. Not to mention the short-term construction-related jobs.

    1. Good point. People There’s jobs there. It’s also worth keeping a variety of transit-accessible jobs in the Eastside, not just software and retail.

  12. Does anybody have an address for this BNSF site? It doesn’t show up on a quick google/google maps search, and isn’t obvious from satellite imagery.

    It sounds like it’s between the 120th (Spring Creek) and 130th st. stations, or maybe between Hospital and 120th. If that’s the case, then I have a question: does the facility have to be next to a station? If so, I’d prefer Lynwood for TOD reasons, but I don’t think this is a bad choice, either.

    If not, though, it seems like we could do way better. That 120th st station is perhaps the best location for TOD in the whole system there is nothing of financial or environmental value to displace (which means no substantial political opposition), and it has great connectivity. Northgate mall and Lynwood are tricky prospects for TOD, because they would be islands of walkability in a sea of unappealing crap, which 1) just isn’t that appealing, and 2) makes it really hard to get to the critical mass where a walkable neighborhood makes sense. It get’s chicken-and-egg-y: who is going to start a business for walking customers before they exist, and who’s going to move into a walking neighborhood that doesn’t have businesses yet? Basically, somebody has to make a massive investment in both, and hope that the market is interested in thousands of new units, in the same location, at the same time.

    This challenge is mitigated greatly by being adjacent to something cool and walkable, because you aren’t wholly dependent on this new project taking off (also helps to have a huge investor interested in making the investment needed to reach that critical mass all on their own, which is exactly the case in Spring Creek).

    With the close spacing of the Link stations, it will be easy for TOD to grow into an appealing, dense corridor from Downtown to the 130th station, whereas a station between 130th and Overlake would be pretty hopeless.

    That stretch, then, would be a great location for the facility, if it doesn’t have to be next to a station. It’s got the same warehouses-and-parking-lots character in which a train facility would fit right in, and it’s far less valuable for TOD.

    Can we look at locations out there?

    1. Edit: That’s exactly what the 520 location is. Writing letter to Sound Transit board now. The difference in property values in 15 years will probably far exceed the $40 million saved now.

  13. Trimet’s MAX has two rail yards. One in Portland (Ruby Junction), and one in the suburbs near Beaverton (Elmonica). Sounds similar to what Sound Transit will have. One rail yard in Seattle, and on near downtown Bellevue.

    Homework assignment. I want someone to compare and contrast both system’s rail yards. Evaluate the locations and surrounding areas, acreage, etc.

  14. Why doesn’t Sound Transit store trains throughout the system with just one Rail Yard? It does works in Vancouver because some of SkyTrain stay in places with three tracks during the night and when they are not in service without go to the rail yard.

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