Two upcoming meetings will again focus attention on a future light rail line through Bellevue, specifically route alternatives under consideration in the downtown area.
The first venue will be a City Council study session on East Link, a plan by Sound Transit to extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington over Interstate 90, through Bellevue, and on to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.
A Sound Transit project manager is expected to discuss the agency's preferred downtown route alternative, as well as several other options now being studied. The council's study session begins at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16, in Room 1E-113, on the first floor of City Hall.
Council study sessions are also shown live on Bellevue Television, Channel 21, and archived for online viewing.
A second opportunity for people to learn about light rail route options downtown will come at an East Link Neighborhood Public Workshop, sponsored by Sound Transit. The workshop runs from 4 to 7 p.m. (with a presentation at 5 p.m.) Wednesday, Nov. 18, and will also take place in City Hall, on the first-floor concourse.
Sound Transit promotes the workshop as an opportunity to learn about the East Link light rail system, provide feedback during the preliminary engineering phase of the project, and let the agency know how East Link can best serve the community.
The Wednesday workshop follows three similar events hosted by Sound Transit in mid- October. Those workshops focused on the East Link route segments south and east of downtown.
In May, Sound Transit's Board of Directors stated a preference for a street-level route on two downtown 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.
One of the recent proposals is for a shorter, less expensive tunnel option. A deep-bore tunnel would 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.
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 earlier 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.
Sound Transit offers more information about East Link. Bellevue's perspective is detailed in Light Rail and Bellevue.
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