New mixed-use development along the future light rail alignment. Credit: Lizz Giordano

This post is part of an STB series examining how suburban cities are preparing for light rail. Read the intro post here, or about how planning has reshaped Redmond’s urban form to leverage light rail and Kenmore’s push to be included in the ST3 plan.

During Claudia Balducci’s first campaign for Bellevue city council in 2003, she was cautioned against using the words “light rail,” advised instead to say “high capacity transit”. But looking back, Balducci said, city sentiment was already shifting.

“By 2008, people who were running had to be in favor of light rail to be a credible candidate,” said Balducci, who currently represents the sixth district on the King County Council and served on the Bellevue City Council from 2004 and 2015. “So even the people who were less enthusiastic about it would say on the campaign trail, ‘Yes, I support light rail,’ because it had come so far in public support.”

That support was apparent when 56% of Bellevue residents approved the 2008 ST2 package, which will bring light rail and six stations to the city by 2023. Ironically, Bellevue would soon acquire an anti-light rail reputation as a dramatic years-long battle over the downtown alignment unfolded. But even before the measure passed, councilmembers and city staff were already beginning to reimagine large swaths of the city, starting with the Bel-Red area, with light rail in mind.

“We saw light rail not just as the other mode of transportation, but really as an economic engine,” said David Berg, director of Bellevue’s Transportation Department. “It’s an economic development driver.”

At the end of 2017, crews installed the first elevated section of the 14-mile light rail extension, placing two girders that span 112th Avenue Northwest near the future Bellevue Downtown Station. Credit: Lizz Giordano

“People are excited about living in suburban-urban places, compared to truly suburban places, which the Eastside traditionally was,” added Mac Cummins, Bellevue’s director of planning and community development. “There’s a belief that it’s millennials driving that, but baby boomers are cashing out on their houses all around the country and moving into urban places…and what people want is access to transit systems.”

Once the East Link Extension is completed, some Bellevue residents will be more connected to Seattle’s downtown and central business district than many of Seattle’s outer neighborhoods.

“I don’t think residents really understand how different it is going to be. I think developers have some idea,” said Charles Cooper, who sits on Seattle Subway Foundation’s Board of Directors and works in Bellevue.

Cooper predicts more urban services will come to Bellevue and a walkable community will emerge. “It will be an option for people to live car-free in Bellevue; that was unheard-of 10 years ago,” he added.

Transforming Bel-Red

As the region was debating light rail expansion, Bellevue was also beginning to re-envision the Bel-Red area and its 900 acres east of downtown. Zoned mostly for light industry at the time, and according to the city, starting in 1995 the area was beginning to fade, as businesses moved out and employment decreased.

The future light rail alignment under construction in Bellevue. Credit: Lizz Giordano

“It was unprecedented to be having — at the same time — a conversation about the alignment of light rail and investment of over two billion dollars, and the future of land-use in an area of 900 acres,” said Michael Brennan, director of the development services department. “Being able to redevelop the land as light rail comes in maximizes the value of the investment.”

The councilmembers made two strategic moves in the early 2000s. After visiting and exploring various light rail systems around the country, the Council along with a citizen commission, developed a light rail best practices document to “clearly articulate the City’s standards and expectations for the design.” They also allocated money to study the Bel-Red area.

“We knew the land values in all of Bellevue were high enough that it was unlikely that a big industrial use was going to come and replace it,” Balducci said, who also sits on the Sound Transit Board, referring to the Bel-Red area. “So we knew it was going to change.”

Credit: City of Bellevue

Balducci said that Bel-Red study eventually became the outline for a 2009 rezone of the area and drove the city to push for a light rail alignment that didn’t hug State Route 520.

“Sound Transit would probably have been perfectly happy to put the segment up along SR 520,” Balducci said. “I think we did it right. We didn’t just stick the walksheds up against the freeway.”

“This is one of the best uses of light rail that we’ve made in the region,” she added.

Two stations are planned for the Bel-Red area: one in the Spring District near 120th Ave NE and Spring Boulevard, and the second will be located at 130th Ave NE and Spring Boulevard. The city is concentrating development in two nodes around the future light rail stations, allowing for a range of mixed-use and higher-density development. The city is planning for 10,000 new jobs and 5,000 new housing units in the Bel-Red area by 2030.

To “facilitate compact, transit-oriented” neighborhoods, the city is adding about a dozen new local roads to complete the street grid surrounding the future stations. Many of the major north/south arterials in the Bel-Red area will be extended and/or widened. Once the East Rail Corridor (ERC) is completed, cyclists will be able to connect from the trail to the Spring District Station through a multi-purpose path. The ERC will directly connect to the station planned in the  Wilburton neighborhood.

Credit: City of Bellevue

The re-envisioning of the area and the upcoming improvements have already brought two major entities to the Bel-Red area: the University of Washington’s Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) and REI’s new company headquarters, opening in 2020. A handful of residential and office towers are currently under construction near the two stations and more projects are in the pipeline.

“I want to see another part of the Bel-Red area start to redevelop and then I’ll know the plan is really a success,” Balducci said. “I want to see activity on the streets. I want to see people who are living and taking the light rail line. I want to see some new businesses — maybe something cool that we don’t expect even today.”

But Cooper, the Seattle Subway Foundation’s board member, worries that the transformation and elimination of the industrial land in the Bel-Red area might have some future unintended consequences.

“Industrial areas are the unsung lifeblood of the city and it’s often tempting for cities to displace them for residential or office [uses]…but what that does is displaces living-wage jobs,” Cooper said.

With the Bel-Red plan in place and development ramping up, the city has turned its attention to reimagining the Wilburton station area. Again, the city is planning much of the up-zoning around the light rail station with a “respectful” transition into the nearby single-family neighborhoods.

Reshaping Downtown

The future site of the Bellevue Downtown Light Rail site was recently an empty lot adjacent to city hall. Credit: Lizz Giordano

Known for its massive blocks, downtown Bellevue can be unwelcoming to residents not traveling by car. The city says it’s working to change that and improve first/last mile non-motorized connections to stations. For pedestrians, the city is planning to install covered walkways and mid-block crossings. To promote biking, Bellevue is piloting a downtown demonstration bikeway while venturing into the bike-sharing world — launching an e-bike pilot this spring.

“We’re trying to actually design streets that encourage both modes of travel: bikes and cars,” Cummins said. “Whereas a 1980s suburban approach would have been to try to make it all about the car.”

Transit advocates had hoped for an alignment that would have brought light rail further into downtown Bellevue.

“I don’t think it’s very optimal, but unfortunately it’s the best [option] given the politics of the situation,” Cooper said about the downtown alignment. “I have to hand it to the then-ST CEO, Joni Earl, ‘cause she got the Central Line built against all odds, and she got the Bellevue alignment completed with a suddenly-hostile city council and neighborhoods out for blood.”

“It was a combination of listening, as well as being iron-fisted,” he added.

Rendering of the Vision Line

The fight over the downtown alignment began in 2009 after a new majority leading the Bellevue City Council threw support behind the “Vision Line,”: a proposed alignment that ran light rail along Interstate 405, moving the downtown station to the freeway. Balducci said it was nicknamed the “Redmond bypass”.

“The ridership numbers were lower but not tremendously lower,” Balducci said. “But who was riding it changed — it ended up being something that funneled employees to Microsoft very efficiently.”

Eventually, the council flipped again, and the ultimate alignment ran further from the highway, but perhaps not enough for future riders, Balducci says. She predicts riders 50 years from now will question why the alignment didn’t run closer to Bellevue Way with two stops downtown.

“The answer will be ‘we couldn’t afford it,’” Balducci said. “I don’t know that that’s going to be a super compelling answer to future generations. They may wish that we had just figured it out.”

50 Replies to “Reimagining Bellevue for Light Rail”

  1. Thanks for the piece on Bellevue. As you point out, Bellevue’s CBD is actually closer to Seattle’s CBD than a huge part of Seattle. Downtown Bellevue might still be called suburban, but that’s changing quickly.

    You cover the Spring District and the CBD (in discussion of the controversy about the light rail alignment). But the CBD isn’t changing much due to light rail: business interests were able to keep light rail out of the heart of downtown, pushing it to the east edge of the CBD nestled between a SFH neighborhood and the highway. CBD is getting a height bump from 424′ to 600′ but not much else changes.

    The Spring District is really just a planned residential/corporate park, designed by the same folks who built Microsoft’s suburban campus. The presence of light rail will help it to grow in a more urban fashion but it’s still an engineered neighborhood.

    I think that the Wilburton Commerical Area is far more interesting and deserves a bit more attention than is given in this article. (Full disclosure: I was involved in the “reimagining the Wilburton station area” that you mention.) More details are here: There’s a section of the DEIS dedicated to transportation.

    The reason Wilburton is interesting is twofold: first, the existing commercial area is almost completely covered by large lot commercial properties. Developers have an incentive to rebuild that doesn’t exist in Bellevue’s CBD but they don’t have the freedom of a blank canvas that Wright Runstad had with the Spring District. Bellevue will need to weave an urban vision into an existing network of streets with a patchwork of different land owners.

    The more interesting point for this blog is that the Wilburton Commercial District showcases a variety of major transportation projects. It’s adjacent to I-405. It’s adjacent to the Bellevue Transit Center. It contains the two major east-west arteries from CBD to the east (Bel-Red and NE 8th). The redevelopment is being planned at the same time as the Eastside Rail Corridor and Bellevue’s “Grand Connection”. And it not only contains a light rail station, it’s within the 1/4 mile walkshed of four light rail stations.

    Again, thanks for the piece. It’s good to see the Eastside discussed as part of the region.

    1. A corporate park is non-walkable and has a ridiculous amount of dead open space and surface parking, like the office parks on Northup Way and 108th north of it. The fact that the same developer built Microsoft and the Spring District is neither here nor there: what matters is whether it’s walkable and convenient to transit, not who designed it. I hope that Kevin Wallace with his Vision Line will be more enlightened with his 116th properties, and I don’t assume that a crappy one automatically means a crappy other, especially with fifteen years in between and the public mood changing.

      As for Wilkburton within walking distance of four Link stations, I hope the Chick-Fil-A lot will be redeveloped so that more than just a handful of fast-food chicken eaters will be able to use the station.

      Also in the article:

      “To “facilitate compact, transit-oriented” neighborhoods, the city is adding about a dozen new local roads to complete the street grid surrounding the future stations.”

      Don’t imagine two-lane streets like in Seattle. These are five-lane roads. Where they intersect with other five-lane roads, it will not feel compact at all.

      “Known for its massive blocks, downtown Bellevue can be unwelcoming to residents not traveling by car. ”

      Bellevue’s superblocks were never that large. They’re two blocks downtown and eight blocks outside it. That may seem large until you go to other parts of the country like Santa Clara, with ten-block blocks. It takes thirty minutes just to walk three of them, and at that point you’ve passed only three buildings. That’s depressing. Bellevue was never that depressing.

      1. I don’t consider the design of the Spring District any more walkable that Microsoft’s campus. They are both solidly OK–not bad, but not great.

        Yes, the streets in Bellevue are way too large, and the streets in Wilburton aren’t any different. There’s a push to get walkable streets (e.g., actual woonerfs) in WIlburton but we’ll see what happens. Bellevue is obsessed with car traffic: creating it, accommodating it, and complaining about it.

        As for Chik-Fil-A, the market will dictate what gets built where. Given the recommended zoning for that location I’d be shocked to see Chik-Fil-A stay there in the long term. But there are still underused sites in Bellevue’s CBD (e.g., Toys R Us) so again, we’ll see what happens.

      2. the Wilberton transportation plan Page 3.9.41 shows them knocking the street grid down to 2 blocks by 2 block with walking and bike paths splinting most of those with all the new streets noted as local, alley or festival.

        Festival sound pedestrian oriented.

      3. Ian, walkable streets were a big focus of the Wilburton Commercial Area recommendations. There’s also a design to turn 116th Ave into a “Grand Boulevard” that is more people-friendly. But we’ll see what happens :)

    2. You clearly do not have the most current plan of the Spring District. It is not planned by the same people as Microsoft, it has 3.5M of office on build to lots with over 100,000SF of ground floor retail.

      1. Wright Runstad talks about the Spring District like it’s one of their projects:

        And this article discusses how Wright Runstad developed the original Microsoft campus:

        So I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Maybe my information is out of date. Do you have links than can educate me?

      2. You are correlating the first few buildings in Redmond to the current campus. Wright Runstad developed the first few of over 40 buildings. They did not develop the master plan or campus as it is known today.

      3. And the article I linked to was about Wright Runstad designing an expansion in 2007. The feeling of the entire project is to a large extent formed by the first buildings. In this case, Wright Runstad has repeatedly done projects for Microsoft. I am assuming that their design philosophy will show itself in both places.

        But unless having an argument is your real goal, let’s consider my points. I said that the Spring District is an engineered neighborhood: a planned residential/corporate park. I said that it’s no more walkable than Microsoft’s campus.

        To which of these statements are you objecting? For which do you have counterexamples with, hopefully some supporting documentation?

        You’re pulling out one point of my argument and saying I haven’t proven it. Can you please discuss the rest of my points rather than be fixated on a single counterpoint for which you have no evidence?

    3. Another interesting thing about Wilburton is that if it really takes off, and 116th has the same density as 108/110th, then the original Issaquah LRT alignment following the ERC south of the Wilburton station might end up making more sense than interlining through downtown Bellevue (as per the final ST3 alignment) – another station on the ERC between 4th & Main might end up preferable to doubling down on the existing stations.

      It’s a big maybe. But interesting to consider.

      1. I don’t see that happening, AJ. the I-90 corridor will always have more workers from that corridor headed into Downtown Seattle rather than into Wilburton for several decades into the future (unless a massive natural disaster changes things) or Bellevue decides that they want 800-foot buildings. The corridor planning work won’t get done until about 2030 so there will be a few years of East Link operations and some

        One other issue is going to be whether there needs to be the capability for cross-platform transfers (a multiple-platform station for the two lines). As all three stations are designed now, two trains in the same direction can’t meet — allowing for riders to transfer from one line to another. Wilburton is probably the only station where extra platforms can be added. However, I think the intent for the line to South Kirkland station is to have it use tracks being constructed for the new rail yard, which will be a mere wye from the East Link tracks.

      2. Al,

        I can’t believe what you said about shared platform transfers to following trains. There is NO better transfer! The rider steps off one train and a takes a few more steps to clear people headed for the escalators then returns to the front of the platform, waits two to five minutes and steps on a following train which presumably takes a path diverging from the rider’s previous train.

        ANY other transfer except a four-track (the IND Broadway line is the exemplar in North America) same-direction “local” to “express” transfer across a shared platform, or ONE pair of reverse-direction transfers between lines with three platforms at one level, one of which is shared, involve a minimum of one change of level.

        Yes, changes of level are inevitable with crossing lines because two-track level crosssings are a nightmare to operate and a safety hazard. With parallel lines they are only acceptable when the headways on the two parallel lines are simply too short to interleave. That will never be the case with Main Street to Wilburton in Bellevue. East Link is limited by the stress on the bridge and Issaquah-Wheresville will never haul very many people.

        The bottom line is that you don’t need “timed transfers” between frequent subway lines.

        What really needs to happen is that both Main Street and Wilburton must be center-platform so that riders making the Issaquah-Seattle transfer can step off the Purple Line train, cross the platform and grab a Seattle-bound Blue Line train at Main Street. Similarly, folks making the Wheresville-Spring/Overlake/Redmond transfer should be able to cross-the platform at Wilburton. These minimize the out-of-direction detours riders must make.

        It would be optimum if north of Wilburton and south of Main Street the East Link line can be built with a temporary pocket track which can become a pocket for the inferior diverging line to wait for an approaching “main line” Blue train to clear the junction without fouling a following Blue train. Minneapolis does this at their very busy intersection between the original line to Mall of America and the St. Paul line and it allows high frequencies on both lines.

        Yes it would cost a few tens of millions more but would guarantee unobstructed operation of the “main line” in the event that Issaquah booms and the Wheresville end is extended.

      3. I can see your point for high-frequency trains, Richard. That’s not the issue that I see. The issue I see is wondering how frequent trains will be on a Sunday evening. The connection is only as good as the line with the lesser frequent headways. I have my doubts that weekend service on the Kirkland-Issaquah line will ever be more frequent than 10 minutes and could easily drop to 20 on Sunday evenings.

        I looked at the plans on the East Link pages, and it is a bit of good news about both Wilburton and East Main transfers.

        – Wilburton is a center platform, so people going between Kirkland and Redmond only have to walk across the platform. It’s true that transferring will require a wait though.

        – East Main is side platform, but the whole station is designed with pedestrian grade crossings at both ends according to the plan. If this is the case, changing between Issaquah and Seattle means that a rider won’t have to change elevations. They simply have to go to the end of the train and cross over the tracks to get to the other platform. Granted, it wouldn’t be as walking-efficient as a center platform (what is being constructed at South Bellevue Station )

        We don’t fully know the ultimate operations plan. Sure, Sound Transit can propose these lines now — but when operational efficiency and overcrowding issues take hold, the operational plan for the entire system will be subject to review and adjustment. Frankly, I’d be surprised if ST goes along with running every train to the end of every line — the outer edges will be perceived as over-served, and the inner station riders will complain about overcrowding — all at the same time!

  2. Is the new street grid going to have decent east/west bike facilities? Particularly, NE Spring Blvd., which looks to be the only street that really goes through? The existing streets in the area (Bel-Red road, Northup Way) don’t. Let’s not repeat past mistakes, yet again.

    Also, if you look around 132nd St., there’s a 4-block gap where no streets go through between Spring Blvd. and NE 20th St. That’s fine for cars, but too big for pedestrians. Will there be a park with cut-through paths? I certainly hope so. Designs that force pedestrians onto arterial roads to get anywhere are not particular walker-friendly.

  3. It’s great joe Bellevue has seized the opportunity to create TOD in the Spring District. It’s also good that the stations near Doentiwn are also ripe for taller redevelopment.

    I do wonder how the station access will function. Three of the four other stations have a small footprint. That will pose a functional problem in two areas:

    – Pedestrians will still have to cross in many places where cars are moving at 35 to 45 mph, and wait up to two minutes to get a walk sign.

    – People getting dropped off or picked up will have little to no curb space. This could be significant since local bus service is often not convenient, and many streets have no curbside parking; people will be hopping in and out of cars in busy traffic lanes. The 405 HOV access at 6th is a natural place for dropping off or picking up people so this will be acute at that Downtown station.

    In other words, i think that there is still some more work for Bellevue to do to fully incorporate good access.

  4. Why is it that we have so much trouble building light rail stops where there’s actually people, rather than where some rando bigwig wishes there were people? Bel-red has nothing. The interesting parts of downtown Bellevue are far away from the freeway. It’s like where we put the Tukwila station. Not near the mall, where people might actually have destinations, but in the middle of nowhere, and surrounded by a huge parking lot that makes it even less walkable.

    Why can’t we take a lesson from the Capitol Hill station’s success? Put stations in areas where people are, and want to go, and you’ll see explosive ridership growth beyond your dreams. Place them in grassy fields, and we’ll continue to be third or fourth rate, transit-wise.

    1. What about the 3.5 million square feet of office and 1000 units of residential at the Spring District?

    2. Because Bellevue puts high priority on SOV thoroughput, and has a low threshold for walkability success. It has graduated from walking being possible (i.e., mandatory sidewalks; walkscore 30-ish) to walking being OK but still less convenient than driving; walkscore 70-ish). It hasn’t yet taken the leap to “highly walkable” like Pike-Pine or University Way. It’s just what its residents and businesses expect and demand: increasing urbanism but still with parking minimums and plenty of car lanes to keep SOV driving convenient. Because they wealthy enough that they think non-driving shouldn’t apply to them, and Bellevue has enough wealthy people that it should remain car-oriented, even if it adds bike lanes and light rail stations and sidewalk-facing doors. Kemper Freeman fought hard to prevent light rail, believing that his shoppers are better served by more car lanes (and maybe BRT), and that increasing car congestion would lead to lower sales. Kemper has the most power in Bellevue and successfully got Link routed away from Bellevue Way, and tried to torpedo it but failed. Maybe he’ll feel better about over time as everybody does? But in any case the Eastside is not ready to allow a walkers’ paradise yet.

      And if you’re thinking that Link should have been on NE 8th Street and Crossroads rather than Bel-Red because that’s where the existing people are, I thought that too but have since changed my mind, because I’m very impressed with the axis of density that’s developing between Bellevue, Bel-Red, and Redmond. That’s a lot of housing for people to live in, and some of it is less expensive than the surrounding areas. And if it doesn’t get Crossroads because Crossroads is in an out-of-the-way location, well, maybe that’s OK and it can be served by RapidRide, because it’s not very far from either downtown Bellevue or Overlake.

      1. I agree with the statements, Mike, though maybe not the broad pronouncements about “rich Bellevue people”. Some of us are interested in a less SOV-focused city.

        Downtown Bellevue’s walkscore is actually 95-ish: I just checked my favorite example on the WalkScore site: Expedia’s current office has a walkscore of 95, its new office in Seattle has a walkscore in the low 70’s.

      2. I hate to say “rich Bellevue people” because I grew up in Bellevue and know that a lot of people are median-wage or struggling, the schools have all incomes mixed. and teenagers in affluent families often don’t realize how well-off they are because everyone around them seems the same, what they consider “middle class”. But I used it because the rich subset is what’s partly driving the mandate for parking minimums and five-lane arterials, either their direct demands, or people catering to their assumed desires.

        As always, it will change as people one by one change their minds and eventually reach a critical mass of demand for non-driving priorities. In the meantime we’ll get stations near freeways and five-lane arterials. Hopefully they can be converted to something better later.

      3. Freeman has also stated that the upscale shoppers he wants to appeal to won’t *ever* use light rail. Therefore, any concessions to rail, and any success it has, will only chase away his shoppers.

        I personally think he’s leaving millions on the table, but that’s what he thinks.

      4. MIke, I only object to the “rich Bellevue people” meme because it’s so common in Seattle area discussions. In this case it could very well be correct but in general I consider it a dangerous meme.

        In my experience, a lot of the people who were fighting light rail weren’t the rich people. Their voices probably didn’t matter in the end. They clearly didn’t matter as much as Kemper Freeman’s. But a lot of middle-income people, especially in non-urban areas, depend upon cars. Anything that threatens their cars (such as a train taking away road expansion dollars) needs to be stopped. People across the economic spectrum are driving for the five-lane arterials. It’s just the rich people that get heard.

        So sorry to jump on you but I think it’s a bad stereotype.

      5. K-Freeman also thinks self driving cars are a way of the future, they will help with last mile and in rural and suburban areas but the don’t address the geometry issues that most cites have to deal with. Plus i don’t think he is running the business any more one of his daughters is in charges.

      6. “But a lot of middle-income people, especially in non-urban areas, depend upon cars. Anything that threatens their cars … needs to be stopped.”

        This morning I realized what drives me nuts about these five-lane roads: it’s the opposite of what Seattle is doing. Bellevue is widening arterials from 2 to 5 lanes, while Seattle is reducing 4-lane arterials to 3 or 2 lanes to make a complete street. Bellevue makes complete streets by just making them extra wide. This leads to the irony that 120th and 124th in Bellevue need need more car capacity than Dexter or 23rd in Seattle, or even Denny Way. That’s nuts. And NE 8th Street was widened earlier, and is now wider than those Seattle streets. In what universe does Crossroads have more people going to 405 than northwest Seattle going to SLU or the U-District to Rainier Valley? Even with a petit midrise village like Bel-Red.

      7. Bellevue’s modus operandi was to widen roads. 44% of Bellevue residents responding to a survey said that traffic is Bellevue’s biggest problem. The next largest bucket was 15% who said it’s affordable housing. (Data is from Kemper Freeman’s transportation czar….seriously, though that’s not his official title.)

        Bellevue has been changing lately. Example: the 116th Ave NE “road diet” that actually improved automobile throughput. Another example are the green bike lanes on Main St. and those planned on 108th Ave NE.

        One big push of the Wilburton CA CAC was to lower the level of service (LOS) guarantees for automobile traffic in Wilburton’s commercial area to match the LOS in Bel-Red and the CBD. A lower LOS means it’s OK from the city’s perspective for cars to sit in traffic, thus there’s no need to widen roads.

        Bellevue is changing. Not quickly enough, but it is changing.

      8. 120th and 124th are being widened from Bel-Red to NE 8th Street.

        I haven’t seen 116th’s road diet. What/where is it? What I did see recently us a huge intersection at 10th & 16th, with separate traffic lights and turn lanes for the Overlake and KP hospital parking lots. Those don’t look like places that expect or encourage a lot of people to bus or walk in. It looks like “The Magic Motorway”.

      9. North of Bel-Red, 116th went from two lanes each direction to one each direction with a center turn lane and bike lanes. Traffic throughput is greater because drivers no longer change lanes to get around other cars turning left or right into parking lots. Bicycles are safer, but this is still Bellevue.

        Old street configuration:

        New street configuration:

        The new 116th recommended design (the “Grand Boulevard”) can be found in the CAC materials I linked to above. See the April packet for some clear diagrams.

    3. It’s the difference between building where people are vs. where people will be. Building on brownfield, with the development to follow the infrastructure, is much cheaper than building rail after the neighborhood is built up.

      1. The elephant in the room is they’re afraid to upzone single-family areas, so they stick to existing commercial/industrial districts. Fortunately Bellevue has more industrial/commercial land than a lot of people realize; it has been hiding in plain sight.

      2. Bellevue is built on neighborhoods. That’s in the DNA of the city. And I’m not gonna lie: I specifically bought in Bellevue next to downtown because it was an opportunity to have a house on a small lot with some gardens and a walkscore of 85.

        But Bellevue is nowhere near built out. Take a look at the block occupied by Toys R Us and Tully’s on Main St. There are five big box stores, two of which are closed, occupying 90% of a Bellevue superblock. (I’m counting Tullys + Babies R Us as having the size of a big box store.)

  5. Bellevue did the right thing to push light rail away from SR-520 through the BelRed area. They probably should have brought it through the heart of Overlake, too. At least they are allowing the BelRed area to be developed in a walkable and bikable way.

    In the fullness of time I expect that everyone will consider the light rail routing through downtown to have been a colossal mistake. Basically the light rail misses much of the apartment construction and prime land for future development. An elevated or tunneled routing along Bellevue Way with a stop in southern downtown near Main/Bellevue Way, a second stop near NE 8th/Bellevue Way, and then a final near the BTC would have covered all of downtown and made it all of downtown walkable from a transit stop. It’s a crying shame such a route was not selected, even if there were most costs. Kemper Freeman and Bob Wallace and their supporters have hurt downtown Bellevue for the long term.

    1. The Kirkland- Issaquah Alignment Could potentially peal off at the Bellevue transit center instead of the Wilberton station and head north along Bellevue way to the south Kirkland park and ride and put a station a NE 8th and Bellevue way. Tunnel from 6th up to 8th then down 8th to Bellevue way then to about NE 12 the elevated guide-way straight up to South Kirkland park and ride with a transfer to buses going down 520.

      1. The Bellevue TC station is oriented east-west, so the line would need to make 180 degree turn?

    2. Huge mistake that might be partially rectifiable by having a well integrated, near-BRT Rapid Ride B in dedicated lanes, like Madison RR is supposed to be. Downtown – Crossroads would be a straight shot and might work to extend the “reach” of light rail, IF done properly. Otherwise, people will continue to just drive in to downtown Bellevue. Currently, the 30 minute night frequency of the 550 together with the SB bus stop just feet from high speed traffic and precarious situation with left turning cars is not fun.

    3. I’m not really bothered by the Downtown Station location. It may seem far from Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square, but it’s not that far in distance; it’s similar to the distances from baggage claim to the SeaTac light rail station.

      That said, I think the location could have been helped by a 400-foot pedestrian tunnel that runs from the Link station platforms under NE 6th and the Transit Center and ending east of 106th. It could then have stairs and escalators up to the Transit Center.That would reduce the “hill climb” effect of NE 6th and make the station appear to be much closer to Bellevue Square/Lincoln Square. The devil is in the details though because it would have to go either across, above or below the light rail tracks/ tunnels to get to the eastbound platforms (the westbound platform appears much easier for this tunnel). One option would be to have gates that block pedestrians when trains are coming (kind of like what is designed for Judkins Park). Regardless, that could be added later.

      1. The grade difference between 106 and 108th isn’t that much – “hill climb” is an exaggeration. It’s nothing like hoofing it from the waterfront up to 3rd Ave.

        If you are really concerned, install some outdoor escalators or a moving walkway along the pedestrian path between 106 & 108th. Pedestrians already have priority over cars crossing both streets. A pedestrian tunnel is both more expensive and less useful, to say nothing of diminishing street life.

        Bellevue is proposing a “GRT” line along that corridor, which strikes me as also overkill but would accomplish the same thing – extend the easy walkshed to include all of Bellevue Way & Old Main.

      2. This GRT sounds a lot like PRT but without the tracks. Kind of what informally exists at Seatac airport with the complementary rides on the cart. Even if something that mixes with pedestrian and bike traffic would seem to slightly stretch the meaning of Rapid, it is good to see that some thought has gone in to these connections.

      3. I’m not that concerned. I figure that when East Link opens, there will be such an increase in wanting great access to rail stations that additive solutions can easily be pursued.

        Maybe by then, a brighter light bulb will also finally turn on in the region about how important access to rail stations will be. It still amazes me how ST avoids adding an escalator or pedestrian crossings (costing under $10M today) after building billions to add tracks. Given how the access comments an likes are diminished in the recent West-Seattle-Ballard workshop summary of comments (my rough guess is that is is about 15 percent of all comments and likes), I’m not sure it’s very bright yet.

    4. There was an alternative to put the station under 110th, where ST is building a tunnel anyway. That would have been closer to the bus bays and downtown. It’s not as bad as if the station were on 405, but it’s something everyone will regret long-term, especially the impact for those transferring between Link and 405 BRT; e.g., people going from Renton to Microsoft. Bellevue’s decision to keep the station away from the front of City Hall and to minimize construction impacts to it will seem like short-term thinking. Even by future city councilmembers and staff arriving by Link.

      1. The difference between a station under 110th and the actual station is a station entrance on the SW corner or the SE corner of 6th & 110th. If you are coming to or from a westbound (towards Seattle) train, I think the station entrance would literally be the exact same spot, except instead of riding an escalator southwards your escalator goes eastward.

        The station would be super shallow, so you’d still need to cross 110th to get between the bus TC and Seattle-bound Link trains. Assuming pedestrians get the same priority they currently get at 108th and 6th, the wait to cross 110th should be negligible.

  6. Relax, Claudia. Bet there’s a porcupine of Golden Spikes where the railroad barons argued whether the Transcontinental should run closer to the Rio Grande or the Canadian Border. So throw another pile of flip charts on the fire and dream fifty years with the controller forward:

    Since classic memorial jet fighter “Flyover” went out as air defense went laser, and Boeing turned to Amazon delivery drones, a mere hundred stories overhead the still much-debated “Ring of Fire” mag-lev comes howling by on its way from Tierra del Fuego to the Aleutian Islands.

    While far below, on the beloved old James Corner- style Elevated Connector, world-wide visitors will spend whole days wandering on foot, bike, and riding stately antique “LINK” trains between Totem Lake, Kirkland, Bellevue, Issaquah, North Bend, and Snoqualmie Pass.

    While centenarian local interests will still be arguing about whether the alignment should have been closer to Oldbellevue Town or the magnificent I-405 Man-Made River. And only disharmony across the land will be the sad perennial quarrel between the Amazon River and the Yukon Subareas.

    And as Governor of Greater Sountransitaria you’ll be wearing a classic Greek robe and laurel crown while you dedicate the touching centenary memorial to the noble and tragic Battle of the First Forward Thrust.
    Trust me. Last fifty years’ at Mag-lev speed will be a GP lane at rush hour compared to how fast next fifty go by.

    Mark Dublin

  7. Oh goodness… Even with what’s unsatisfactory about the East Link route as it stands, you gotta admit we dodged a huge bullet with the “Vision Line.” That thing is such an eyesore to even look at. The ugly circus tent walkway would have eternally been an ever-present visual symbol of how totally they messed this up. I’ll take one flight of stairs and a single street crossing over that any day.

    1. Testify. It looked like a longer version of the roofline of the Northgate Transit Center. Since that’s going to be torn down around 2021, I guess ST could have shaved a 1M or two by repurposing. :)

    2. The Monorail II proposal had something similar, a monorail on Alaskan Way with a moving walkway to downtown. Fortunately it was defeated by 70%.

  8. No, I imagine the Issaquah-Kirkland Line would connect to the east Link Line on the other side of the freeway then continue straight over the bridge and through TC the at 110th make a 90° turn then make a 90° back on to NE 8. A zig-zag, Then a 90° on to Bellevue -way with an underground station between NE 8th and NE 12 Then exiting the ground to a Guide-way between 12th and 14th

  9. The development from I-405 to Redmond is exciting but it seems 116th Ave NE from NE 12th St to Northrup Way is being ignored. That street should at least have the same permitted land uses and density as the Spring District and Wilburton.

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