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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 31, 2012

Council Roundup: Light rail cost savings considered

Also, briefings on sewer rates and animal control services

The City Council on Tuesday got its first look at very rough estimates for ways to save money on the East Link light rail project in Bellevue.

The savings are intended to reduce the city's financial contribution for a downtown light rail tunnel. Bellevue has been working with Sound Transit, which is building East Link, since January on a "collaborative design process" to identify cost savings.

Members of the public will have an opportunity to study the cost-savings analysis and provide feedback during an open house sponsored by Sound Transit and the city. The event, a follow-up to an introductory open house in April, will be 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 5, at City Hall. Information from a cost-savings report will be available at the open house and the full report, once completed, will be posted on the city's website.

Officials say the cost-savings estimates in the report are based on very early conceptual designs. These rough estimates, along with assessing potential environmental effects of the ideas, will help decision makers determine which of them should be evaluated in more detail. Cost-savings ideas include:

  • Shifting Bellevue Way Southeast to the west and building a street-level light rail line instead of a "retained cut" line on the east side of the street: Cost savings potential estimated at $5 to $8 million.
  • On 112th Avenue Southeast, creating neighborhood access at Southeast Eighth Street, eliminating access at Southeast Fourth Street, and building a street-level line instead of a retained cut line under Fourth Street: Cost savings potential estimated at $5 to $9 million.
  • Four different ideas for saving money on the downtown light rail tunnel station: Cost savings potential ranges from $4 million to $23 million, depending on the idea.

The collaborative design process stems from an agreement struck last year between Bellevue and Sound Transit, in which the city will provide $100 million in low- or no-cost property contributions toward the cost of a tunnel. Another $60 million in "contingent" contributions by the city is the focus of cost savings efforts; the city's goal is to reduce that contribution to zero.

In addition to cost, the agreement addresses the project's scope, schedule, budget and design modifications to minimize neighborhood impacts. East Link will run from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.

The city council is expected to make recommendations on which cost-savings ideas merit further consideration at its June 18 meeting; the Sound Transit Board will make a decision about which ideas should receive further engineering and environmental analysis when it meets on June 28.

For more information see the council study session material at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketExtendedStudySession5-29-123c.pdf

Feedback: Bernard van de Kamp, Transportation Assistant Director, 425-452-6459 or bvandekamp@bellevuewa.gov

County's rate proposal would mean higher sewer bills
Also on Tuesday, King County officials briefed the council on proposed rate hikes for wastewater services, which would result in higher monthly bills for customers, including those in Bellevue. The city has a long-term contract with King County for treatment and disposal of all sewage. Bellevue's policy calls for passing through wholesale rate changes directly to customers.

The county proposal is for a 2013-2014 increase of 10.4 percent in the wholesale rate charged to cities that are part of the regional wastewater system. In Bellevue, that would translate to a roughly 6.3 percent boost for residential customers, or about $3.79 per month, bringing the average monthly wastewater bill to $64.18 starting in 2013. There would be no additional increase in 2014 under the plan.

The exact rate increase won’t be known until the King County Council makes a final decision on wholesale rates by June 30, and the Bellevue City Council completes its 2013-2014 budget process later this year.

County officials also have proposed a 3 percent increase in the "capacity charge" for new connections to the regional wastewater system as a result of new construction. Under the plan, beginning in 2013 the charge would rise to $6,618 if paid in one lump sum, or $53.50 per month if payments are made over 15 years.

Feedback: Alison Bennett, Utilities, 425-452-2808 or abennett@bellevuewa.gov

Animal control services in Bellevue
Councilmembers again discussed whether Bellevue would be better off partnering with other Eastside cities to provide animal control services, or sticking with a countywide model in which the city contracts with King County for field work, shelter and the licensing of pets.

The consensus was to pursue a course somewhere in the middle. That likely will mean signing a three-year agreement for King County to continue providing services, and using the time to further plan for the possible formation of a “subregional” system to provide animal control services.

Councilmembers are expected to vote on which option to pursue by June 30, the deadline to finalize an agreement with the county to continue providing services for Bellevue. The three-year agreement would include up to 25 cities and King County, and would cost Bellevue an estimated $219,208 over three years.

Although councilmembers believe Bellevue would receive better service at a lower cost by forming a subregional organization, they are wary of the risks entailed in starting a new line of business in uncertain economic times.

Additionally, councilmembers expressed concern about the possibility that King County may propose a countywide levy for voter approval to help fund animal control. That could put taxpayers in Bellevue, and other cities that provide their own services, in the undesirable position of having to pay twice -- once for their local service, and again to support the regional system.

Feedback: Sheida Sahandy, City Manager's Office, 425-452-6168 or ssahandy@bellevuewa.gov

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