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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Council Roundup: Latest light rail tunnel option encouraging

What a tunnel for light rail could look like.Bellevue City Council members on Monday learned more about a recently revised plan to bring light rail to the city via a downtown tunnel, and were encouraged by what they heard.

The briefing by Sound Transit staff was part of a long-running effort by Bellevue officials to locate the East Link light rail line in a way that balances regional transportation interests with the need to minimize neighborhood impacts and maintain mobility on local streets.

The council's study session came at the same time that Sound Transit kicked off three days of neighborhood public workshops on East Link. The first meeting on Monday was in Redmond. The next two workshops in Bellevue will run from 5 to 7:30 p.m. (a presentation begins at 5:30 p.m.) at the following locations:

  • South Bellevue on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Bellevue High School (cafeteria), 10416 Wolverine Way.
  • Bel-Red area on Thursday, Oct. 15, at Stevenson Elementary School (gymnasium), 14220 N.E. Eighth St.

Sound Transit calls the workshops an opportunity for people 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 being held. Sound Transit plans to hold additional workshops as the project moves ahead.

East Link is a voter-approved plan to extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90, through Bellevue and on to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.

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.

However, Bellevue Council members have maintained a downtown tunnel is needed in order to avoid traffic congestion on streets and to assure that trains run on schedule, and two tunnel options were identified at a cost of  about $500 million more than the street-level or elevated alternatives. Sound Transit then requested that Bellevue identify funding options by the end of 2009 to pay for the higher costs of a tunnel.

Recently Sound Transit identified a third tunnel option, called C9T, that would carry light rail trains in a tunnel from Main Street, north under 110th Avenue Northeast, then east on Northeast Sixth Street on an elevated line over Interstate 405. A cost estimate for this option is expected to be available by late November.

Sound Transit officials on Monday also discussed efforts to develop a city-backed “side-running” route on the east side of Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast, in the area between I-90 and downtown. It’s an alternative to Sound Transit’s preferred route in the middle of the roadways. 

For the Bel-Red area, from downtown to the Overlake Transit Center, Sound Transit officials reviewed work with Bellevue and a developer on routing options in the area of 120th and 124th avenues Northeast where a station is planned.

In early 2010, the Sound Transit Board is expected to revisit its preferred alternatives and choose which route to focus engineering on. The final environmental impact statement is 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.

The Council Agenda memorandum has additional details.

Feedback: Bernard Van de Kamp, 425-452-6459 or bvandekamp@bellevuewa.gov

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