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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Light rail is focus of upcoming council session, workshops

Light rail station in SeattleResidents and others interested in a future light rail line through Bellevue can learn more about a recently proposed downtown tunnel variation at Monday's City Council meeting.

Also next week, three workshops sponsored by Sound Transit will provide opportunities to learn more about light rail in south Bellevue and the Bel-Red corridor and to provide feedback about the plan.

On Monday, Oct. 12, Sound Transit officials will update the council about East Link, a plan to extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue, and on to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.

Sound Transit's presentation will be part of a study session that begins at 6 p.m. in Room 1E-113, on the first floor of City Hall Council study sessions are also shown live on Bellevue Television (Channel 21).

One topic of discussion will be a recently released route modification through downtown Bellevue. This alternative, called C9T, would carry light rail trains in a tunnel from Main Street, north under 110th Avenue Northeast, then east on Northeast Sixth Street via an elevated line that crosses over Interstate 405.

In May, Sound Transit's Board of Directors expressed a preference for a street-level route on two roadways, 108th and 110th avenues Northeast. The board also agreed to further study a "deep-bore" tunnel on 108th Avenue Northeast, from Main Street to Northeast 12th Street.

Bellevue Council members believe light rail should run in a downtown tunnel in order to avoid traffic congestion on streets and to assure that trains will run on schedule.

The new proposal would be shorter and less expensive than other tunnel options, which are projected to cost about $500 million more than the street-level or elevated alternative approved by voters last November. Sound Transit requested that Bellevue identify funding options by the end of 2009 to pay for the higher costs of a tunnel. It’s not clear how much less the new, shorter tunnel option would cost compared with the longer versions. 

In addition to the council meeting, Sound Transit will host three neighborhood public workshops. The workshops will be 5 to 7:30 p.m. (a presentation begins at 5:30 p.m.) at the following locations:

  • Overlake/Redmond on Monday, Oct. 12, at VFW Building (Jerry Foley Memorial Hall), 4330 148th Ave. N.E., Redmond;
  • South Bellevue on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Bellevue High School (cafeteria), 10416 Wolverine Way, Bellevue; and
  • Bel-Red area on Thursday, Oct. 15, at Stevenson Elementary School (gymnasium), 14220 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue.

Sound Transit bills the meetings as an opportunity to learn about East Link, provide feedback that will support early engineering work and let the agency know how East Link can best serve the community. Each workshop will focus on the preferred route and station in the area where the meeting is taking place. Sound Transit plans to hold additional workshops as the project moves ahead.

In the area between I-90 and downtown, Sound Transit is considering a route on Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast that runs in the middle of the street, as well as a city-backed "side-running" option running along the east side of the roadways.

For the Bel-Red area, from downtown to the Overlake Transit Center, light rail would run on a newly constructed Northeast 16th Street. Various options are being considered for how the line would cross two busy roadways, 120th and 124th avenues Northeast.

Sound Transit Board members will consider the latest downtown tunnel proposal at their next meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8, and decide whether it should be included in the final environmental review for East Link.

In early 2010, the Board will revisit its preferred alternatives and choose which route to focus on in the final environmental impact statement, scheduled for release in fall 2010. A final decision on the route and stations will be made shortly after that. Design work will be done from 2011 to 2013 and construction of East Link is scheduled to begin by 2014; light rail service to Bellevue is slated to start in 2020.

East Link will connect Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond to the Link light rail system that opened this year between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. With the completion of Sound Transit 2 expansions in 2023, it will be part of a regional light rail system stretching 55 miles. The East Link line will serve up to 48,000 daily riders.

For more information about East Link, visit Sound Transit. For Bellevue's perspective, see light rail and Bellevue.

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