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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Council Roundup: Light rail tunnel funding considered

Sound Transit light rail trainThe City Council on Monday again engaged Sound Transit officials on the future East Link light rail project, with the focus on a Sound Transit committee's recommendations for the route through Bellevue and draft terms outlining the city's commitment to help fund the tunnel in the downtown section.

Council members asked detailed questions of the Sound Transit staff about the Capital Committee's recommendations for all three segments of the light rail line through Bellevue. The committee, which reviews Sound Transit capital projects, is recommending a tunnel option for downtown, if Bellevue agrees to help cover the added costs.

Sound Transit staff repeated Monday that a tunnel will cost significantly more to build than a street-level alternative, and the city will need to contribute $150 million to make it happen. If Bellevue and Sound Transit cannot agree to general terms for the contribution, the Sound Transit Board of Directors may recommend a street-level route.

To come up with the needed contribution, the council will consider a menu of potential contributions to the East Link project, drawing from the city's letter to Sound Transit in March. 

Drawn up by city and Sound Transit staff in a "term sheet," the options include right of way, reduced permitting and inspection fees, construction that benefits the city and East Link, utility relocations and cash contributions. For its part, Sound Transit proposes to identify sources for additional funding as well as project savings.

At its next meeting on Monday, April 19, the council is expected to consider the term sheet. That would set the groundwork for continued negotiations and a more formal contract later. Sound Transit's Board of Directors is scheduled to decide on a downtown route preference at its meeting on April 22.

East Link is part of a regional transit package approved by voters in 2008. It includes the extension of light rail from Seattle, across Lake Washington on Interstate 90 to Bellevue, and on to the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.

The long-range schedule for East Link calls for Sound Transit to complete a final environmental review of all the alternatives in early 2011, and make a definitive decision on routes and station locations by early 2011. Design work for East Link will continue through 2013, construction is expected to begin by 2014, and light rail service to Bellevue projected to start in 2020.

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

Council reviews progress on Wilburton Connections projects
Also on Monday, the council was updated on Wilburton Connections, a group of high-priority transportation projects just east of Interstate 405. The effort, part of the city's Mobility and Infrastructure Initiative, is intended to increase connectivity between Wilburton, downtown Bellevue and the Bel-Red area in anticipation of future growth.

The projects include widening 120th Avenue Northeast between Northeast Fourth and Northeast Eighth streets; assessing traffic on Northeast Fifth Street, extending Northeast Fourth Street from 116th to 120th Avenue Northeast and extending Northeast Sixth Street from I-405 to 120th Avenue Northeast. Work on the four projects is progressing at different rates, with the 120th Avenue improvements furthest along. Construction on 120th could begin in late spring 2011.

Part of the presentation was an update on cost estimates and the funding gap that currently exists. The total cost for Northeast Fourth Street, Northeast Sixth Street and 120th Avenue Northeast is estimated at $51.4 million, but only $13.2 million has been budgeted so far.

To fill the gap, staff presented a variety of revenue options the council could consider through the upcoming budget process. Options include grants, a low-interest public works loan from the state, formation of a local improvement district, a Local Revitalization Financing Program from the state, and loans that would be repaid using a 2009 property tax levy increase of 3 percent.

In response to comments at a recent open house, the council is also considering a staff recommendation to fund early engineering work for improvements to 120th Avenue Northeast, from Northeast Eighth Street to Bel-Red Road. A decision on that work could come as early the council's April 19 meeting, along with decisions to authorize contracts with consultants working on the various projects. 

Wilburton Connections council study session item
Wilburton Connections

Feedback: Nancy LaCombe, Capital Projects Manager, 425-452-4382 or nlacombe@bellevuewa.gov

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