Also: Public hearing set for draft light rail best practices; nod given to preferred Rapid Ride route; night closures set on I-90 at I-405
The City Council Monday acknowledged the need to hire additional firefighters and police officers to meet rapidly expanding public safety needs.
Bellevue consistently ranks as one of the safest cities in the nation, with rates for both property and violent crimes continuing to fall in recent years. At the same time, residential fires have decreased over the past two years to their lowest level since 1997.
Nevertheless, downtown growth and an aging and increasingly diverse population pose significant challenges to maintaining public safety services at present levels, according to city staff who briefed council members.
Council approval of up to eight new firefighters and six police officers could come as early as next week when the council meets in regular session.
The Council also could approve funding for a new position in the city's Transportation Department to update the city's computerized traffic signal and communication system. The current system was installed in the late 1980s, and cannot be updated to meet current needs.
Open house set for Light Rail Best Practices
The public will be asked to weigh in on draft recommendations developed by the city's Light Rail Best Practices Committee during an open house May 15 at City Hall.
The committee has been meeting monthly since July 2007 to develop a set of recommended light rail best practices for Bellevue, based on the experiences of other cities that currently have such systems. The committee is also charged with developing policy guidance for potential light rail implementation in Bellevue.
City staff this week told Council members that the committee will consider a draft report and recommendations at its May 6 meeting. The committee is expected to issue its final report and recommendations in June.
In July, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the committee's recommended amendments to the city's Comprehensive Plan, the principal tool used by the city to guide growth. The Commission will then forward its recommendations to the City Council.
The Council is scheduled to hold two study sessions on the recommendations in July and vote on Comprehensive Plan amendments in September.
The Best Practices effort is expected to influence future decisions made by Sound Transit for East Link, the agency's proposed plan to extend light rail from Seattle, through Bellevue and on to Redmond. Sound Transit is expected to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement for East Link this fall.
For more information on the Light Rail Best Practices effort, visit the project Web pages.
Council weighs in on Rapid Ride route
The City Council weighed in on its preferences regarding routing and bus stop locations for King County Metro's proposed Eastside Rapid Ride route, one of five such bus corridors funded by the county's Transit Now initiative.
Rapid Ride is Metro's proposed bus rapid transit service that would link downtown Bellevue to downtown Redmond via the Crossroads and Overlake areas. Scheduled for implementation in 2011, Rapid Ride is designed primarily to provide faster transit between the two communities.
Rapid Ride is expected to feature frequent buses, a distinct identity, unique bus shelters, real-time arrival information for riders, traffic signal priority for buses and a fast fare payment system. It's expected to cut travel time by 10 to 30 percent. The new route will replace and enhance Metro routes 230 and 253, though several current bus stops would close in order to speed up service.
The Council's recommended route goes from the Bellevue Transit Center east on Northeast Eighth Street, north on 156th Avenue Northeast, west on Northeast 24th Street, north on 152nd Avenue Northeast to the Overlake Park and Ride lot, east on Northeast 31st Street, north again on 156th, west on Northeast 40th Street, north on 148th Avenue Northeast, east on Northeast 90th Street, south on 160th Avenue Northeast, east on Northeast 85th Street and south on 161st Avenue Northeast to the Redmond Transit Center.
Metro Transit offers more information on Transit Now and Rapid Ride.
Weeknight closures set for I-90 at I-405
Council members were briefed on a series of weeknight closures the state Department of Transportation has planned for Interstate 90 at Interstate 405, lane closures on I-405 and several ramp closures.
The closures, occurring over 10 nights, will begin April 28 and end May 14. Detours will be posted, but delays are expected. Drivers will be urged to avoid driving in the area if possible or to take alternate routes.
During the closures, crews will set 32 girders for a new southbound I-405 bridge over I-90. The bridge is a key part of the DOT's I-405 South Widening project, which will add a new lane in each direction from I-90 to Southeast Eighth Street, and a new northbound lane from 112th Avenue Southeast to I-90. The project is designed to relieve congestion on one of the worst bottlenecks in and out of downtown Bellevue. More highway lane closures will be needed in Bellevue during the coming months.
The state DOT offers more information about the project. For a one-stop resource that provides tips on how to keep moving during roadway construction projects and provides alternatives to driving alone, visit Choose Your Way Bellevue.
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