In a unanimous vote, Sound Transit board members moved forward a proposal to elevate the downtown Redmond Station, directing staff to complete an environmental review and preliminary engineering on the changes. The proposed design changes by the City of Redmond shift the Redmond Town Center station, previously proposed as an at-grade station near Leary Way, to an elevated station closer to 166th Ave. NE.
During the June 22 meeting, the board concluding the project was too far along in the process declined to also consider changes to track alignment.
“Without major backtracking we are probably at a point where it’s too late to consider other alignments,” said Claudia Balducci, King County Council member and Sound Transit Board member. “It’s always worth questioning where we have been, but when there is this much public work and planning, it’s not just the cost to lay the tracks and build the stations. It’s also the cost that’s gone into the land use planning, and the development and park work that been done,” she said.
During public comment, the former chair of Sound Transit’s Citizen Oversight Panel and Redmond resident, Josh Benaloh, had urged Sound Transit to reconsider a previous track alignment studied in 2011 now that an evaluated downtown station was being considered.
The older alignment, referred to as E4, leaves State Road 520 west of the Sammamish River stopping at the downtown Redmond station first, before continuing south east. In an STB guest post Benaloh argued, “the E4 alignment has far more potential to be extended in future years to the foot of Sahalee Way where it could provide service to the significantly underserved city of Sammamish.”
Instead, in the approved alignment the light rail tracks follow SR-520 traveling east to the Southeast Redmond station then turning steeply west to head to the final station in downtown Redmond.
According to the 2011 EIS, this design is estimated to cost $50 million less than the E2 design and reduce the track length by nearly half a mile. However, it does result in the track crossing both SR 520 and Bear Creek Parkway twice.
During the meeting, Sound Transit board member John Marchione, Redmond Mayor, said the city has been planning around the alignment chosen in 2005. “Twelve years later, to pivot would be difficult.”
He said the city saw E4 having a greater detrimental impact to landmarks and a greater negative impact on the community. He pointed to the connection between the East Lake Sammamish Trail and the Redmond Central Connector, saying the E4 alignment would make the connection cost prohibitive.
In a letter to the Sound Transit Board recommending changes to the design, city officials make the case that an elevated station “avoids the mobility impacts associated with up to six gated street crossings in Downtown Redmond, with gates closing on average every four minutes.”
The new proposed location, further east, allows for bus-rail transfers on both sides of the station, improving both convenience and safety, the letter continued.
The City of Redmond suggested refinements to the project after completing a Downtown Transit Integration (TRAIN) study to analyze how best to integrate light rail transit into downtown. The refinements also include building multiple parking structures for the 1,400 stalls that are part of the project, rather than a single structure. With the area, where the proposed parking structure is planned, was recently rezoned from light industrial to mixed-use development the city says a large-single-mega structures no longer fits in.
A final decision on the station design and alignment is anticipated in 2018 after the completion of an environmental review. The Redmond Link Extension is expected to begin construction in 2019, with service starting in 2024.