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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Council Roundup: Majority still backs B7 light rail line

 Also, residents to get energy usage reports and energy-efficient lighting comes to two parks buildings

A majority of City Council members, in a 4-3 vote on Tuesday, reaffirmed their support of a future East Link light rail route that runs along Interstate 405, from I-90 to downtown  Bellevue.

Voting in favor of the B7 alternative, as it's known, were Mayor Don Davidson and council members Conrad Lee, Jennifer Robertson and Kevin Wallace. They said the B7 route does the best job of protecting neighborhoods, avoiding construction impacts and reducing light rail noise.

Opposed to B7 were council members Claudia Balducci, John Chelminiak and Grant Degginger. They cited reduced environmental impacts, higher ridership and lower costs for the alternative they prefer, called B2M.

The vote Tuesday means the council will send a letter to Sound Transit's Board of Directors stating a preference for the B7 option. Balducci was appointed to the Sound Transit Board by King County Executive Dow Constantine in January, and is one of 18 members. 

Sound Transit Board members are expected to reaffirm their preference for one of several versions of the B2M alternative at the Board's next meeting on Thursday. The B2M route would run along Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Northeast, from I-90 to downtown Bellevue.

Where the route should be located in the B Segment of East Link has been a bone of contention for council members and has generated intense interest among neighborhoods and businesses along the proposed routes.

"I firmly believe the B7 option serves the needs of Bellevue and best protects our neighborhoods from unwanted impacts," Mayor Davidson said.

In other areas of the proposed light rail line through Bellevue, the council was generally in agreement about station locations and route configurations, including the placement of an elevated station in the hospital district, at or just north of Northeast Eighth Street.

Council members have also been unanimous regarding the need for a downtown tunnel in order to avoid local traffic impacts and make sure the regional light rail system runs on time. Sound Transit has said a tunnel will cost significantly more than a street-level light rail line and the Bellevue Council has indicated a willingness to help make up the cost difference.

The next step in the process after the Sound Transit Board's decision on Thursday will come this fall when the transit agency releases a supplemental environmental review of the latest options for the B Segment and downtown routes.

A final environmental review will be completed in the spring of 2011 and the Sound Transit board will make a final decision on what project to build. Construction on East Link is expected to begin by 2014, with light rail service to Bellevue anticipated to start by 2021.

Feedback: Bernard van de Kamp, Regional Projects Manager, 425-452-6459 or bvandekamp@bellevuewa.gov

Energy usage reports to go to residents
A one-year grant-funded program to help single-family households reduce energy usage was approved by the City Council as part of the city's broader Environmental Stewardship Initiative.

Under the program, home energy reports will be mailed to qualifying households. The reports are designed to educate residents about their energy usage compared to their neighbors, and provide targeted tools and resources to reduce usage. Results of a pilot program tested in Bellevue suggest that this program will save Bellevue residents $875,000 in the first year.

Residents who receive the reports but wish to opt out of the program can do so by calling Puget Sound Energy.

A decrease in energy usage benefits residents directly through decreased utility costs, and benefits the community through decreased air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. In 2006, residential energy usage was responsible for 23 percent of Bellevue's greenhouse gas emissions in 2006.

"It's our hope these reports provide people with easy-to-understand information on what they can do to save energy and save money," Mayor Don Davidson said. "Even in a city as savvy as Bellevue, it's challenging for residents to stay on top of the rapidly evolving knowledge about how we all can reduce our energy usage."

Bellevue is joining Puget Sound Energy and the cities of Issaquah, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Redmond, Renton and Sammamish to provide the program, which is being funded almost entirely through grants and regional partnerships.

Feedback: Sheida Sahandy, Assistant to the City Manager, 425-452-6168 or ssahandy@bellevuewa.gov

Energy-efficient lighting coming to two parks buildings 
The council approved installation of energy-efficient lighting at the South Bellevue Community Center gymnasium and the Robinswood Tennis Center.

Funded with a portion of a federal $1.3 million energy efficiency block grant, the new fixtures won't need long warm-up periods and will use considerably less energy. The lighting, which will cost a total of about $121,000, will also be outfitted with occupancy sensors so it shuts off when no one is in the building.

With the new lighting, the South Bellevue Community Center's annual electric bill is expected to drop by $5,258, while the tennis center's drops by $15,633. The lights at both facilities will be replaced during their annual shut-down periods (late August for the SBCC and late December for the tennis center).

The council also awarded a contract to AGR Contracting for improvements to the Coal Creek Southeast 60th Street Trailhead.

The $67,000 project will improve access to the Coal Creek Natural Area from the Newport Hills neighborhood. It includes installation of a crushed rock pathway, trailhead landscaping, post and rail fencing, signage, rock and vegetated retaining walls, and the creation of three parking stalls. The project is scheduled to be finished this fall.

The Coal Creek Natural Area was acquired from King County in 2004, and is the largest park in Bellevue's parks and open space system. The site contains 4.5 miles of trails that provide regional, non-motorized, recreational use. Existing trailheads to the park are limited and have remained mostly unimproved. 

Feedback: Robin Haaseth, Parks & Community Services Public Information Officer, 425-452-6182 or rhaaseth@bellevuewa.gov

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