Reminder: Bellevue Council to Discuss B2M/C9T Tonight

As we told you over the weekend, the Bellevue City Council is having an extended study session (PDF) tonight to discuss the Sound Transit Capital Committee’s recent recommendation for B2 modified and C9T as preferred alternatives for East Link.  This will be an important meeting as the council is expected to discuss the collaboration of a “term-sheet” with ST to move forward on C9T.  We’ve mentioned that the B7/C9T combination that the council favors is likely financially infeasible.  How the pro-B7 four-member quorum will respond is anyone’s guess.

A coalition of B2 and C9T supporters, led by the newly formed group Citizens for Responsible Transit (mentioned in our past news roundups), is expected to be in attendance tonight to support the capital committee’s decision.  For any Bellevue residents, potential future East Link users, or general pro-transit folk, we encourage you to go out and support reasonable alignments that will serve the South Bellevue Park and Ride and the downtown core.  The study session will be at 6pm at Bellevue City Hall in conference room 1E-113.  Oral comments will be taken at the beginning.

Bellevue to Discuss ST’s B2M Recommendation Monday

The C9T tunnel with the B2 and B3 connectors.

Two nights ago, we told you that the Sound Transit Capital Committee chose to pursue a recommendation of B2 modified alignment for East Link’s South Bellevue segment, and C9T for the downtown segment.  Those who have not followed our coverage on East Link closely may not be familiar with B2, which had been forgotten until recent.  The route, shown in the map at right, is similar to B3 but avoids the unnecessary curve away from the Surrey Downs neighborhood.  Trains would instead run straight up Bellevue and 112th Ave before entering the downtown segment.  The modifications are mostly regarding guideway type (at-grade, elevated, etc.) and side-running segments along 112th.

We have a few commenters who were present at the Capital Committee meeting.  Bob Bengford graciously brought back his own report:

While Claudia [Balducci] walked cautiously about Bellevue City Council’s 4-3 majority preference on the B routes, there appeared to be general consensus that South Bellevue Park and Ride was a critical stop along the route and needed to be on the alignment – both in terms of accessibility for park and ride users, but perhaps more importantly, for the great connectivity with other bus routes. We heard that Mercer Island’s council had sent a letter expressing their concerns over impacts to their park and ride should South Bellevue be excluded on the Eastlink Route.

More below the jump.

Continue reading “Bellevue to Discuss ST’s B2M Recommendation Monday”

ST Capital Committee Recommends B2M & C9T

As we predicted, the Sound Transit Capital Committee made a recommendation of B2 modified and C9T for the preferred alternatives earlier today.  Bear in mind that this is a mere recommendation and that the ST Board will make its official decision later this year.  For those unfamiliar with the East Link alignments, B2 runs up straight up 112th Ave SE as opposed to B3 (the original preferred alternative), which curves away from Surrey Downs and back west on Main Street.  C9T is the newest tunnel option that we’ve been covering.  We’ll have a more detailed break-down later.

[UPDATE 4:23pm] An alternative recommendation of C11A for the downtown segment was also made.

Bel-Red Open House Tomorrow

There’s been a lot of argument about East Link Segments B and C, but since the “Bel-Red” alignment* was chosen, there hasn’t been very much chatter about Segment D.  That may change with Sound Transit’s open house about this segment tomorrow:

East Link Light Rail Preliminary Engineering Open House

Bel-Red/Overlake Corridor
Thursday, April 1, 2010
5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Highland Community Center
14224 NE Bel-Red Road, Bellevue

* Not actually on Bel-Red Rd. at any point.

East Link Update: Tunnel Possible, Surface Viable

At yesterday’s Sound Transit board meeting, the City of Bellevue presented revenue options that could help make up $104-150 million of the $285 million gap between budget and the tunnel option (C9T).

Despite attempts from Wallace and Freeman Jr. to derail East Link entirely or keep it out of town, City staff and the transit-friendly council minority seem to have prevailed in helping close the gap. Do remember that Sound Transit has been working to reduce this (and have gone from $500 to $400 to $285), so it’s nice to see the City finally stepping up with options to meet in the middle.

At the end of the joint city/ST analysis we reported on last month, we noticed an option for the north end of the B segment was presented to save $100 million more – it could reduce the gap from $285 to $185 million. At that point, $150 million from Bellevue puts a tunnel in striking distance of reality.

That’s not the only news from yesterday – a peer review panel released its report on the feasibility of surface light rail in Bellevue, and found it totally viable. This is the same conclusion we drew from the joint analysis – while Bellevue traffic will be bad in 2030, it will be just as bad with or without trains. They’re more interested in having great connectivity between light rail and the transit center, as 30-40% of light rail riders at that station will be transferring.

That seems to lend itself to C11A as a great alternative – so if a tunnel isn’t affordable, a great transfer at Bellevue Transit Center is easily within our reach.

Bellevue City Council Sends Letter Supporting C9T

The Seattle PI reports on the outcome of last night’s meeting:

The council voted 7-0 to send a letter to Sound Transit in support of the “C9T” option, which would tunnel beneath 110th Avenue Northeast before emerging at Northeast Sixth Street and jutting east to cross I-405 to a station at Overlake Hospital.

It appears the city council has plans to cover some of the additional costs associated with the tunnel option, which is about $285 million more expensive than Sound Transit budgeted for its preferred alternative — an at-grade couplet along 108th Avenue Northeast and 110th Avenue Northeast. The excess costs must be covered by the city.

There is still a funding gap which the city hasn’t identified how to fill, but is probably hoping Sound Transit brings some clever ideas to the table. In an open letter last month, we asked Sound Transit to consider putting Eastside commuter rail funds unlikely to be utilized toward East Link. That money is currently earmarked for I-405 bus service expansion, but many would agree that serving downtown Bellevue should be ST’s primary concern on the Eastside.

A Peek at the Other Two East Link Stations

I-90/Rainier Avenue Link Station (from the Central District News)

In light of Bellevue routing and whatnot, East Link’s first two stations outbound from International District Station have been somewhat of an anomaly, at least up until now.  The Central District News has some new information about the I-90/Rainier Ave. Station, which is currently a freeway stop.  There will be platform entrances from 23rd Avenue on top of the Mt. Baker tunnel entrance, as well as an entry ramp to the Rainier Avenue bus stops below I-90. More below the jump.

Continue reading “A Peek at the Other Two East Link Stations”

Bellevue City Council Meeting Right Now

As this posts, the Bellevue City Council is in the midst of another “extended study session,” including another council/staff discussion on East Link.  You can stream it here.

If you attended you can share your report and impressions in the comments.

[Update from Sherwin: 9:07pm] You can also follow along on the Government Access Channel, which is Channel 21 for Comcast subscribers.  The council is currently deliberating the contents of the letter they wish to draft to Sound Transit.  We don’t expect any major decisions tonight, but if anything happens, we’ll provide an update.

[Update from Sherwin: 9:42pm] The council has just voted 4-3 in favor of a motion that says B7 is preferred in the letter.  This is the wording as it is: “The majority of the council now favors B7 as the locally preliminary preferred alternative.”  From what I understand, Balducci asserted that it must say “preliminary” as the Final EIS has not been issued by ST yet.  More to come.

Mercer Island Link Workshop

If you’re interested in the Mercer Island Link station layout, be sure to attend Sound Transit’s community workshop on the subject this Tuesday, March 9th, from 5-7:30pm with the presentation starting at 6.  It’ll be at the Mercer View Community Center (8236 SE 24th St.)

  • Learn about the East Link light rail system and view in-progress preliminary engineering drawings
  • Share your thoughts about the Mercer Island station layout
  • Tell us more about your community and how East Link can best serve you and Mercer Island.

To beat a dead horse for a moment, Mercer Island residents might let ST know whether or not they want direct Link service to the Downtown Bellevue core, as well as a line that serves the South Bellevue P&R, thus preventing I-90 commuters from having to use the Mercer Island Park & Ride to access Link by car.

Bellevue Friday Forum

If somehow you haven’t heard enough about the Bellevue Link alignment, Transportation Choices is hosting a forum Friday in Bellevue with some knowledgeable and/or influential figures:

Panelists:
Don Billen, East Link Project Manager, Sound Transit
Trinity Parker, Government and Community Relations,  Sound Transit
Bernard Van de Kamp, City of Bellevue
Patrick Bannon, Downtown Bellevue Association
WHEN
: Friday, March 5, 12 – 1:30 pm
WHERE: Bradford Center, 752 108th Avenue NE, Bellevue

Bellevue City Council Deadlocked Again

Greenbaum Home Furnishings, the site of a proposed B7 Wilburton P&R, would be condemned. Image from Google Streetview.

For those who expected the Bellevue city council to finally come to consensus on a ‘B’ segment decision last night, it didn’t happen.  The large expectations were that the council was to pick up on a vote, where it left off last Monday. From internal sources, rumor was that Mayor Davidson was intending to do just that until the word reached his ear about the damage a vote could do to choosing a tunnel for the ‘C’ segment.  This was further coupled with a mass of discontent from B3 supporters.  Either way, progress was limited yet again in last night’s study session.

A recap of the meeting is below the jump.

Continue reading “Bellevue City Council Deadlocked Again”

News Roundup: SR-520 and Life Between Buildings

Reminder: Bellevue’s B7 Vote Could be Tonight

A Mercer Slough flyer from years ago. Image from HistoryLink.org.

Remember that tonight is the night to show up in favor of your favorite East Link alignment:

The Bellevue City Council could make a very bad decision Monday night tonight, choosing to change its preferred alignment from the superior B3 alignment to the environmentally-questionable B7 alignment that skips the South Bellevue Park & Ride, instantly losing thousands of daily riders for East Link…

WHAT: Bellevue City Council meeting to discuss the light rail alignment in South Bellevue
WHEN: Monday March 1 at 6:00pm. Public comments are taken at the beginning.
WHERE: Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Ave. NE (one block from the Bellevue Transit Center)

Be There: Bellevue Could Vote for B7 Monday Night

A Mercer Slough flyer from years ago. Image from HistoryLink.org.

The Bellevue City Council could make a very bad decision Monday night, choosing to change its preferred alignment from the superior B3 alignment to the environmentally-questionable B7 alignment that skips the South Bellevue Park & Ride, instantly losing thousands of daily riders for East Link.

Transportation Choices Coalition has the details:

The City Council meets on Monday, March 1st to potentially reconsider its decision to serve the South Bellevue Park and Ride with a light rail stop. Last year, the City Council picked an alignment (B3) that would bring a light rail stop to this popular Park and Ride. The city council — with its two newly elected councilmembers — is considering switching its preference to an alignment (B7) that bypasses the South Bellevue Park and Ride, runs along the freeway and would serve the much smaller Wilburton Park and Ride, potentially leaving hundreds of transit riders in the lurch.

Show up on Monday and urge the council to keep light rail service to the South Bellevue Park and Ride.

WHAT: Bellevue City Council meeting to discuss the light rail alignment in South Bellevue
WHEN: Monday March 1 at 6:00pm.  Public comments are taken at the beginning.
WHERE: Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Ave. NE (one block from the Bellevue Transit Center)

Action on the B segment may be taken as early as 6pm, so please try to be there at or before then.  Comments are scheduled for 8pm, but a stronger showing at six will be more influential.  The meeting will be in conference room 1E-113, next to the council chamber.

Our own Sherwin has written a great article on the Bellevue City News blog on how many residents in south Bellevue support the B3 alignment. We ran an op-ed earlier this week against the B7 alignment. And in an open letter earlier this month to the city council, we shared our thoughts on segment B in South Bellevue:

[…] The South Bellevue P&R is a critical transit access point and must be served by East Link, since ST Express route 550 will no longer exist once light rail begins service. However, even the modified B7 has environmental concerns that leaders should consider carefully. We are confident the legal, financial, and environmental obstacles of crossing environmentally-sensitive wetlands will prove that B3S is the more practical and affordable alignment. […]

The final decision on the alignment comes down to the Sound Transit Board. Many on the board have expressed their desire to see regional light rail built in the best way possible; a good route will enhance the chances of future expansions of Link passing the ballot in the future and bringing light rail to communities that boardmembers represent, the thinking goes. Make no doubt: skipping the South Bellevue Park & Ride will hurt East Link deeply. The Sound Transit Board should overrule the Bellevue City Council if the council decides to be unconstructive rather than find an acceptable compromise.

Op-Ed: In Bellevue, Some Residents are “More Equal”

A Mercer Slough flyer from years ago. Image from HistoryLink.org.

by JOAN DEVRAUN

I chose to live in Bellevue because of our beautiful park system. One of the city’s greatest park assets is the Mercer Slough Wetlands; when one experiences it, they understand why it was set aside for preservation. A B7 or B7 modified alignment would build light rail through these precious wetlands, which would be risky and could hurt East Link ridership.

Today’s Bellevue residents more closely resemble San Franciscans than those who resided in Bellevue 25 years ago, but modern practices of good local government lag behind the times. Despite owning a home in Bellevue, working here, and being a resident in every way, I realize that neither I nor the public interest are represented by our City Council. That is due to the conspicuous holes in local ethics laws that some self-interested parties have taken advantage of.

Since Kemper Freeman funded anti-rail candidates for the City Council last November, many misguided ideas have surfaced. One, a B7 modified option, was proposed without any consultation of neighbors in the Mercer Slough and Enatai neighborhoods. An on-going insult is the spurious aspersion often repeated by some council members that the residents along 118th Ave SE simply don’t exist. While our voices aren’t being heard, other neighborhoods are getting the attention of councilmembers.

Why is it that some neighborhoods “more equal” than others? It’s time to shine some light on the misguided private interests that have resulted in anti-transit proposals.

Why is it that one council member whose family owns approximately $50 million in real estate along the B3 alignment—the option he voted against—was not recused from that vote? The laws that exist across the lake in Seattle prevent council members with financial conflicts from participating in a vote. It’s also time strengthen our democracy in Bellevue and develop those same rules. Kevin Wallace and his ilk do not represent Bellevue residents, and their actions since being elected are contrary to the notion good government.

The op-ed continues after the jump…

Continue reading “Op-Ed: In Bellevue, Some Residents are “More Equal””

Bellevue City Council Picks…Nothing

ST's preferred South Bellevue alignment

While there were a lot of expectations that the Bellevue City Council was going to make a decision on the B segment last night, it appeared that Robert’s Rules stopped them.  For votes amending previous decisions (in this case, B3S), the council needs to put it on the agenda beforehand.  If so, a simple majority is sufficient.  Since that was not the case, at least five votes had to be in favor of one particularly side.  Considering the relatively even split of the council, Mayor Davidson decided not to pursue such a vote.  However, there is a possibility a vote could be put on the agenda for next week’s session.

Much of the East Link discussion was regarding C segment’s traffic analysis and environmental impacts of B segment.  It appears most of the information was not really new.  Of the highlights of the night, Kevin Wallace went off for a few minutes on how noisy the Link trains were along MLK Way and even said that trains were “squealing in and squealing out” of Westlake.  Those of us who pass through the station regularly are well aware that no squealing has ever been a problem inside the tunnel.

The “comment” of the night comes from several Surrey Downs residents as I was leaving the meeting.  One women said that when comparing the value of their homes to “those apartments” along the B7 route, the apartments are “not worth nearly as much.”  The others with her scoffed in agreement.  I think we’ve hinted before that this kind of conceited ‘neighborhood vs. neighborhood’ thinking makes us really question the credibility that these residents have in “wanting what’s good for Bellevue.”

Live-Blogging Bellevue City Council Session

[This is a live-blogging post from Bellevue City Hall.  Keep refreshing for continued updates.]

5:57pm: I’m at the Bellevue City Council extended study session for tonight’s decision on the B segment of East Link.  Thank goodness there’s wi-fi.  Turnout is mediocre.  So far, I don’t recognize any attendees from our meet-up, but I may be wrong.

5:59pm: Conrad Lee, deputy mayor, opens the executive session.

6:02pm: There’s pending litigation items, so the meeting won’t start for another 30 minutes.  Check back soon.

6:05pm: Surrey Downs is, by far, showing the largest contingency.  Martin Paquette, an Enatai resident who has spoken out against B7 in the past, has joined me.

6:26pm: I’m now hearing that representatives from Surrey Downs are giving some kind of a presentation on B7.  That would explain the extraordinarily disproportionate representation of residents we see.

6:36pm: The Council is still in executive session.  Things should be telecast on BTV, so check the link in the post below.

6:41pm: The council is finished with executive session and has entered the conference room.  Whether we move to the main council chamber for comments remains to be seen.

More below the jump.

Continue reading “Live-Blogging Bellevue City Council Session”

Very Brief Recap of Downtown Bellevue Open House

Yesterday’s Downtown Bellevue open house for the new C-segment alternatives was rather uneventful, to say the least.  As expected, the meeting was very similar to the first downtown open house last November, when public comment was being taken for the original DEIS alternatives.  The Surrey Downs East Link Committee was out in full force handing out yellow literature asking for attendees to support B7 and C14E, two alignments we believe are simply the wrong way for East Link to go.  As an incentive, they also handed out lollipops along with the flyers.  Among the rest of the attendees, I recognized a few folks there as those who attended our meet-up last Thursday.

Katie Kuciemba, community outreach specialist for East Link, informed me that this time around, instead of allowing attendees to draw on the map plots, ST would be taking more general comments in lieu of people lamenting their individual qualms about the alignments.  The overall mood of the open house was much tamer in comparison to last November’s, as there seemed to be a more balanced showing of supporters for each alternative.  Below are some brief highlights of the evening presentation, much of which is old news:

  • With ST’s revenue forecast down 20% due to the recession, Don Billen quickly highlighted the appeal in the lowered costs of the downtown segments linked by an alternative B2A/112th Ave NE connector.
  • The downside to C14E’s restricted walking access was glaring, as Bernard Van de Kamp, Bellevue Regional Projects Manager, highlighted the Hospital Station’s more northernly placement, and its subsequent failure to effectively serve auto-row, an area that has been by marked as an ‘prime’ TOD zone by C14E supporters.
  • Van de Kamp also referred to the downtown ‘wedding cake’ node in saying that C14E was “not as good as the other alternatives” in serving the central core.
  • None of the questions explicitly criticized any single alignment, but were mostly logistical and objective queries.

Next Monday evening, the council is scheduled to hear public comments on the downtown segment.  We’ll have more as soon as an exact time is scheduled.

Reminder: ST Downtown Bellevue Open House Tonight

East Link

For those of you who will be available this evening, this is a friendly reminder that Sound Transit is having their second Downtown Bellevue open house tonight from 4pm to 7pm (the presentation will begin at 5pm).  The open house is expected to be considerably similar to the one held last November, when the original DEIS alternatives were being discussed.  Today’s meeting will take public input on the four newer alternatives recently studied in a joint analysis (PDF) by ST and Bellevue, two of which look hot, the other two not so much.  It will be held on the first-floor concourse of the Bellevue City Hall on the corner of NE 4th St and 112th Ave NE.

Expect the main battlefront to be situated around those for Wallace’s C14E alignment, and those against.  There will also likely still be straggling B7 supporters, who are now finally facing mounting opposition from neighborhood residents in Mercer Slough and Enatai.  We’ve editorialized multiple times against numerous disadvantages that the freeway alternative has across a number of levels.  Below are links to our “recent” East Link coverage: