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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Council Roundup: Light rail options for downtown scrutinized

City Council members on Monday closely questioned Sound Transit officials about the latest work to determine where a future light rail route will be located in downtown Bellevue.

The briefing by Sound Transit staff was the latest in a string of council updates on efforts to locate the East Link light rail line in a way that balances regional interests with the need to minimize neighborhood impacts and maintain mobility on local streets.

Sound Transit will continue its outreach efforts in Bellevue on Wednesday, Nov. 18, when it hosts a workshop for the public from 4 to 7 p.m. (with a presentation at 5 p.m.) at City Hall.

Of particular interest to the council Monday was a recently proposed alternative to run light rail trains through a short downtown tunnel, as well as new options for street-level routes.

The council has taken a position in favor of a downtown tunnel as a way to avoid traffic congestion on streets and to assure that trains run on schedule.

East Link, approved by voters in November 2008, is 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.

The latest tunnel proposal, called C9T, 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.

Council learned the option would cost $980 million (in 2007 dollars), about $300 million more than the route preferred by the Sound Transit Board of Directors in May -- a street-level line running on two roadways, 108th and 110th avenues Northeast.

But C9T would cost about $200 million less than a "deep-bore" tunnel on 108th Avenue Northeast, from Main Street to Northeast 12th Street, which the board had agreed to study further in May.

The figures are important because Sound Transit requested that Bellevue identify funding options by the end of 2009 to pay for the higher costs of a tunnel. City officials are scheduled to present their additional tunnel funding options on Dec. 10.

Also discussed Monday was a peer review panel formed jointly by Sound Transit and Bellevue to review route designs. The group suggested considering street-level routes on 110th  Avenue and 108th Avenue. Those routes would turn east on Northeast Sixth Street before crossing I-405.

A separate "value analysis" group also recommended additional development of the street-level route on 110th Avenue.

The Sound Transit workshop set for Wednesday, the last of four focusing on different segments of East Link, is intended to offer residents 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.

In early 2010, the Sound Transit 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.

For more information on East Link, view the Council Study Session item at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketStudySession11-16-092a.pdf; check Sound Transit; or view Light Rail and Bellevue.

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

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