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.
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.
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.
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 This shot from inside Microsoft’s City Center East tower is a bit outdated, but clearly shows just how the sharp the turn into the tunnel will be for Link trains.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.