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News Release


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Council Roundup: Plan for Bel-Red transformation approved

Also, council weighs light rail routes through South Bellevue and approves expanded ped-bike plan

A major plan to transform the Bel-Red corridor into a model for growth management and transit-oriented development and reverse the decline in the area was unanimously approved Tuesday by the City Council.

Light rail stations are expected to anchor development in the Bel-Red area."This is about growing smartly," Councilman John Chelminiak said. "This is about the economy and the environment winning. This is a sustainable plan."

Council members noted the new plan for the 900-acre area northeast of downtown was three years in the making and the product of a citizen steering committee, the Planning Commission and other city commissions, citizens who participated in numerous public meetings and other outreach efforts, staff and Council.

"This is the culmination of a tremendous amount of effort," said Deputy Mayor Claudia Balducci.

Over the years, the Bel-Red area has experienced a gradual decline. Initially set aside in the 1960s for light industry, the number of people employed in the area has gradually decreased. For example, Safeway moved a large portion of its food distribution warehouse to Auburn.

The plan adopted Tuesday calls for the corridor to undergo a graceful transition from light industrial to a mixture of retail, office and residential uses. The highest density development would be clustered around two light rail stations planned for the area as part of Sound Transit's East Link line. The line, now in the planning stages, will ultimately connect the employment centers of downtown Bellevue, Seattle and Overlake.

Specifically, the Bel-Red plan calls for:

  • New parks, trails and bike paths to enhance neighborhoods and better connect them to other parts of the city;
  • The day lighting of six streams to benefit salmon and other aquatic life;
  • Increased open space;
  • More affordable housing, with specific targets to serve low- and moderate-income households;
  • New office and commercial space blended with residential development, including up to 10,000 new jobs and 5,000 new housing units organized around high-capacity transit stations by 2030.

A benefit of the plan is reduced greenhouse gas emissions because local transit, housing and jobs will be in closer proximity, reducing car trips.

Unlike downtown, where the city has successfully concentrated high-density development by allowing buildings of over 40 stories, the tallest buildings in the transformed Bel-Red area will be limited to about 13 stories and located only near transit centers. The plan calls for other parts of Bel-Red to have three- to six-story buildings.

These higher densities will help Bellevue meet growth management targets, which require cities and towns to accept larger populations in order to avoid suburban sprawl.

Council members are now considering a range of ways to pay for the proposed Bel-Red improvements. Besides general tax revenues, options include higher impact fees and creation of local improvement districts.

Feedback: Paul Inghram, Comprehensive Planning Manager, 425-452-4070 or pinghram@bellevuewa.gov

Council weighs light rail routes through South Bellevue
City Council members on Tuesday again took up the challenge of picking the best light rail route through Bellevue, focusing particular attention on the segment south of downtown, between Interstate 90 and Southeast Eighth Street.

Sound Transit's East Link project will extend light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington to Bellevue and on to the Overlake area of Redmond. The proposed route is divided into five segments, three of which run through Bellevue. In the draft environmental review of the project, several alternatives are being studied in each segment.

Last week, the council expressed informal agreement on a preferred route through the Bel-Red area (Segment D) and for a tunnel through most of downtown (Segment C), but was undecided on which of two alternatives would be best for Segment B, the area from I-90 to Southeast Eighth Street.

Tuesday's study session was the sixth in a series of briefings to determine Bellevue's preference on where Sound Transit's East Link light rail route will run, whether it should be elevated, at street level or in a tunnel, and where stations should be located.

Council is expected to choose a preferred route during its next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, just ahead of a Feb. 25 deadline to submit comments to Sound Transit. Sound Transit is expected to make a preliminary recommendation on East Link routing in April 2009, with an ultimate decision expected in mid-2010, after a final environmental impact statement is completed.

The two options under discussion Tuesday for Segment B both have impacts on property and have generated considerable interest from residents who live near the proposed routes.

Alternative B7 generally follows a route east along I-90, then north near I-405 to downtown, with a station and park-and-ride lot on 118th Avenue Southeast. Alternative B3 follows Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast north to Southeast Eighth Street, then veers northeast between 112th and 114th avenues, then north toward downtown.

One variation of B3 that was discussed involved having a "side-running" route along the east side of Bellevue Way Southeast and 112th Avenue Southeast, rather than the "median running" light rail line in the middle of the road that was studied in Sound Transit's draft environmental impact statement.

The side-running route has the potential to lower costs and would place the line farther from residential neighborhoods. But it may require moving the historic, city-owned Winters House from its current location along Bellevue Way Southeast.

Council members also considered other tradeoffs of the B3 and B7 alternatives on issues such park-and-ride lot capacity, traffic delays, construction impacts and environmental concerns.

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

Council approves expanded pedestrian-bicycle plan
The council Tuesday approved major changes for Bellevue's network of pedestrian and bicycle paths. The plan is designed to create a safer, more convenient environment for walkers and bikers, as well as a more balanced transportation system overall.

The Ped-Bike plan, as it's known, was approved as part of Bellevue's annual Comprehensive Plan amendments. It calls for an integrated network of pedestrian paths and bicycle corridors, including 90 new miles of sidewalk, 147 new miles of bicycle lanes, and 20 miles of trail improvements. Some of the projects in the plan will be completed this year. A few of the plan's 10-year goals are to:

  • Complete two continuous north-south and two continuous east-west bicycle routes through the Bellevue;
  • Reduce bicycle-vehicle crashes by 25 percent from 2007 levels;
  • Construct 25 miles of new sidewalks along major arterial roads.

Work on the Ped-Bike Plan began in 2007 and has included extensive public input, with close review by the Transportation Commission, charged by the City Council with overseeing the plan, and more than 20 community meetings. In addition, approximately 1,300 people responded to an online survey and more than 600 people commented using an interactive mapping feature on the city's website.

The agenda for Tuesday's meeting provides additional details, including comprehensive plan amendments. 

Feedback: Franz Loewenherz, Senior Transportation Planner, 425-452-4077 or floewenherz@bellevuewa.gov.

The Council Agendas and Council Minutes pages offer complete information regarding Council meetings.

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