The falsework for East Link’s future crossing of I-405 in Bellevue

The third and final (for now) installment of our photo tours is here, and covers the most exciting and fastest-changing part of East Link. Continuing from Tuesday’s tour, the downtown Bellevue tunnel will emerge at the east end of Bellevue Transit Center, and has a mixed bag of public views. These photos were all taken throughout the month of May, so they may not be completely up to date.

Bellevue Downtown Station excavation, May 2018

The tunnel portal is covered by a grid of steel girders, which can be seen through a chain-link fence on the temporary walkway to city hall.

Bellevue City Hall plaza

Bellevue City Hall plaza

Link construction over I-405

Bellevue Downtown Station excavation, May 2018

The city hall’s half-closed, half-open plaza has a few view holes that allow you to see the future station from an awkward angle, but walk further to the rock garden and you’ll be rewarded with a better view of the station and the future crossing of I-405. The bridge’s falsework has been laid out between the columns and will eventually be used to form the concrete spans that will bring light rail trains over towards Bel-Red.

Bellevue light rail construction, April 2018

The most spectacular view can be found in nearby office and residential towers, so bugging your friends for a little workplace visit might be worth the hassle. This shot from inside Microsoft’s City Center East tower is a bit outdated, but clearly shows just how the sharp the turn into the tunnel will be for Link trains.

Link construction over 112th Avenue

The future east entrance to Bellevue Downtown Station is fairly easy to visualize from street level: passengers here will buy tickets at street level and climb up stairs/not-broken escalators up to the platform. Bellevue Downtown Station will have the weird distinction of being both an elevated and retained cut station, with entrances to reflect both, and will make for an excellent hillclimb for those looking to travel up and down the hill on 6th Street.

Link construction over I-405

Link construction over I-405

Link construction over I-405

To travel east across I-405, I recommend taking the 4th Street overpass, which is quieter and has fewer ramps to cross (with or without the assistance of a marked crosswalk). It also has the better view of the falsework, with a spacious sidewalk and a favorable direction relative to the sun.

Link construction over I-405

Link construction over I-405

Link construction over 116th Avenue

Walk north on 116th Avenue and you’ll be able to pass under the East Link guideway once again, this time as it flies high above parking lots and car dealerships. The west sidewalk has a good view of the bridge’s underside, which is propped up by steel beams.

Eastside Rail Corridor in Bellevue

Wilburton Station construction, May 2018

Wilburton Station construction, May 2018

Wilburton Station construction, May 2018

While trains will cut across the parking lots, I don’t recommend doing the same on foot. The Eastside Rail Corridor runs a bit uphill from 116th Avenue, but only has wood planks and views that aren’t worth the extra effort. The trail rejoins the rest of the street grid at 8th Street, just under the future overpass for Wilburton Station. The columns here are slowly being poured, so there’s still a chance to see the soon-to-be-extinct rebar cages that will help hold up trains for decades to come.

East Link construction along ERC

East Link construction along ERC

On the other side of Wilburton is another elevated section, but one that is much shorter and only acts as gradual ramp. The guideway passes under 12th Street, which has good views from the sidewalk and is conveniently on the way to our next stop: the Spring District.

Spring District from Downtown Bellevue, April 2018

Sparc at Spring District

Spring District/120th Station construction

Spring District/120th Station construction

Bellevue’s next big neighborhood already has a few apartment buildings and a college-like facility, which puts it well ahead of anything that Seattle has done over the last 10 years around its Link stations. With a relatively blank slate to work with, the Spring District is basically a small SimCity map, complete with an unusual retained cut station. The west side is furthest from the station proper, but has a good view of the box from a brand new overpass, just uphill from Bel-Red Road.

East Link OMF construction

ERC temporary trail at ST OMF East

East Link OMF construction

Continue a bit further north on 120th Avenue and you’ll hit the future operations and maintenance facility, which also has a short segment of the Eastside Rail Corridor trail, complete with views through the chain-link fence. Not much progress here, as construction only began in early April, but things should move quickly to prepare for the on-site TOD that will open in 2023.

Spring District/120th Station construction

Spring District/120th Station construction

Spring District/120th Station construction

On the other side of Spring District Station is a close-up view from 124th Avenue, which has poor sidewalk coverage and a glut of parked semi-trucks and out-of-service buses coming out of the Metro bases, so do exercise special caution here.

East Link viaduct in Bel-Red

East Link viaduct in Bel-Red

This stretch of 124th is also conveniently perched at the crest of a hill (which East Link will cut through) and has additional views of the light rail viaduct over Kelsey Creek’s west tributary as it approaches Bel-Red/130th Station.

130th Avenue closure

130th Avenue closure

East Link construction at 136th

East Link construction at 136th

130th Station is the hardest to photograph, as its namesake street has been closed to through traffic and there hasn’t been much visible work beyond churning up dirt. From here, East Link will run in the street along Spring Boulevard and 136th Street, which lets out at Northup Way before climbing up to SR 520. Sound Transit has a large staging area here that has a short fence that you can hoist your camera onto for good pictures.

East Link crossing 140th Avenue

East Link crossing 148th Avenue

East Link crossing 148th Avenue

Moving onto the SR 520 segment of East Link means navigating in and around the overpasses and trails that wrap around the freeway. I took a route north on 140th Avenue (passing by a short column for East Link) and northeast on the SR 520 Bike Trail to the 148th Avenue NE overpass, where Link makes its most dramatic flyover in Overlake. The overpass isn’t exactly pedestrian friendly, with a strange forced crossing from the west side to the east side midway trough because of a loop ramp, but it does have decent enough views.

Overlake Village Station construction

Calder Avenue and Turing Street, Esterra Park

Overlake TC construction

On the contrary, the next two stops are pleasantly separated from any freeway traffic and are pretty much on Microsoft’s campus. The Overlake Village Station is at the end of the dramatic flyover and can be easily photographed with a zoom lens from 152nd Avenue as it climbs north towards 36th Street, where the crane over Overlake Transit Center looms large. The station already has a decent amount of development in the Esterra Park “neighborhood” and is a generally pleasant area to walk around, as long as you don’t step south of 24th Street.

Overlake TC construction

Overlake TC construction

Overlake TC construction

And finally, the last stop on our tour with a mouthful of a moniker: Redmond Technology Center Station (or Overlake Transit Center). Preparations for the parking garage here are already underway, including foundation work and the crane; all of this, however, is quite pointless, since ridership hasn’t dropped after the park-and-ride closed last year and cars would have to fight through Microsoft traffic anyway to reach the garage. The passageway between the northbound freeway stop and the transit center loop has a nice section with just a bare chain-link fence with views of the staging area. It will be interesting to watch how the walkways around the staging area will change as construction progresses and takes over this part of the lot.

Thanks for joining me on this tour. Hopefully I’ll be back with a sequel soon that will report on a substantial amount of progress, or perhaps we can start scouting for spots around Lynnwood and Federal Way.

25 Replies to “East Link Photo Tour (Part 2: Bel-Red and Overlake)”

  1. Great photos. What about SE Redmond and Downtown Redmond though? Aren’t those also being constructed right now?

      1. The question I want to know the answer to is when and how will they do the under-crossing of NE 40th.

  2. The Microsoft to Amazon line. Employees can escape to downtown Seattle to configure their AWS server and then return home to test their Windows client connection.

    1. With Microsoft having so many employees in Downtown Bellevue as well as their Redmond campus, it will also be the Microsoft to Microsoft line.

    2. Why on earth would you want to run anything in production on Windows, especially on ec2, unless the sole purpose was to spend money.

      1. what if i needed to test a u2f function via IE11 with my local windows fingerprint device.

      2. >> Why on earth would you want to run anything in production on Windows, especially on ec2, unless the sole purpose was to spend money.

        How are your personal biases against local tech products relevant to this discussion?

    3. This isn’t the Microsoft to Amazon line as the train doesn’t go to South Lake Union. When Sound Transit was being planned the good people of Seattle were still trying to save the warehouse artist studios and dive bars that made up the character of SLU.

  3. I really think the Spring District could become a model TOD station for the suburbs. It’s almost a blank slate. As planning for several ST3 suburban stations quickly moves forward in Snohomish, South King, and the I-90 corridor, it will be interesting to see what good and bad lessons are learned from the stations there.

    1. Unfortunately it does have its faults, namely still being dependent on wide streets and large garages. If a few of the interior streets were pedestrianized and the other streets narrowed around Link stations, it could be a real model.

      I think it will serve as a model for some of the smaller stations, rather than the flagship ones in “downtown” Lynnwood and Federal Way, where the city governments seem to be dreaming up 30-story highrises and a real CBD rather than something “smaller” in scale.

      1. One thing that our region has not embraced is a comprehensive architectural style for each planned station. We seem content with generic box design often called “Northwest Contemporary” and with little consideration of public gathering spaces and monuments near stations beyond tree-lined walkways. I’d really love it if there was a way to leave a Link station (or even arrive at a Link station) and know where I am by the architecture rather than merely have to look at a sign or hear an announcement.

    2. Relatively few sites in the suburbs have the blank slate opportunity that the Spring District had. It was a weird artifact of Bellevue’s quick development that the city had so many towers less than a mile from light industrial warehouses, Pacific Topsoils, and bus parking lots.

  4. You can get a great view of the light rail coming out of the downtown Bellevue tunnel from the Meydenbauer Center upper levels. I was there for an event yesterday and there’s actually an outdoor patio from the 4th floor and it has great views of the light rail work below.

    1. Good to know, I’ve never been inside the convention center but I have been eyeing that patio for a while. If only it was a publicly accessible space like parts of the Seattle convention center.

  5. Great post! Amazing to see the rapid (at least it feels that way to me living over by the UW station).

    I ride UW to University Station every morning and it is a true transit miracle.

  6. The first photo, “The falsework for East Link’s future crossing of I-405 in Bellevue” shows three arches. It looks more like a roller coaster than a train track.

    Can someone explain the multiple bumps? Will it be flattened out for final construction? Or is this necessary architecturally?

    1. I’m guessing the support framing is built that way because the weight of the reinforced concrete will compress the structure and flatten it out.

  7. The pictures are very interesting because they are showing both history and progress. They are also showing very different construction metheds for the same 2 tracks through the system. Some have more false work, some don’t. Some use precast pieces. Some concrete is poured in place in wooden molds. Also the tunneling is interesting because most of Seattle’s recent tunnels are either by tunnel boring machine or cut and cover. We don’t see this style of tunneling very much here. That is what interests me. It would also be cool to know how many cubic yards of concrete per individual daily pour. My friend is a cement truck driver.

  8. The O&M site had a bunch of buildings on it, including a Lowe’s, that have all been knocked down and hauled away. That can’t have all happened since early April, can it?

    1. The Lowes site is becoming a BMW dealership, replacing the current BMW location being displaced by rail construction. It’s about half-way through demolition. The OMF-E site abuts the Lowes site and everything there has been cleared.

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