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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Council Roundup: Light rail environmental review discussed

Also, council endorsement for Eastside Pathways

The City Council on Monday began to digest the final environmental review for the East Link light rail project, which was released last week by Sound Transit.

Completion of the massive document is a major milestone in a five-year process during which the council and public have monitored, analyzed and hotly debated the progress of East Link. 

Sound Transit officials are expected to attend the council's July 18 meeting to begin talking about the council’s request for "exceptional mitigation" of East Link impacts, particularly in south Bellevue.

City staff is reviewing Sound Transit's final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and appendices, which together total more than 1,000 pages. Of particular interest is Sound Transit's responses to hundreds of comments and questions that Bellevue officials and residents submitted in early 2009, after the draft version of the environmental document was released.

The analysis will focus on impacts and mitigation regarding traffic, noise, critical areas, urban design, construction, neighborhoods and compliance with city regulations. One new item in the FEIS is a concept for a light rail station just south of Main Street, off 112th Avenue Southeast, instead of a station at Southeast Eighth Street. Also included in the FEIS are special evaluations, required by federal regulations, about impacts on parks and historic properties.

East Link will run from Seattle, through Mercer Island and Bellevue, to the Overlake area of Redmond. Bellevue's council majority has favored a B7 light rail route through South Bellevue, along Interstate 90 and I-405 into downtown. Sound Transit has favored a B2M route that would run parallel to Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast.

Councilman Kevin Wallace, who along with Councilman Grant Degginger has been involved in recent talks with Sound Transit, said that studies by independent consultants hired by the city have set the stage for discussions.

"We now have an opportunity, and I think an obligation to engage in some cooperative discussion with Sound Transit," Wallace said. "The B7 route is still the preferred alternative of the City of Bellevue. But we are not the developer. We are the permitting authority. So our objective is to insist on what we call exceptional mitigation."

Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee said, "We are now in a good position to negotiate with Sound Transit.

"We do have to come up with a route that best fits Bellevue," Lee continued, "from the perspective of having the least negative impact regarding noise, traffic, cost and neighborhoods. That's always been the consensus of this council."

Sound Transit's Board of Directors could decide on its final preferred route as early as its next meeting on July 28. A "record of decision" by the Federal Transit Administration is anticipated this fall; Sound Transit is expected to start construction of East Link in 2015 or 2016 and launch passenger service in 2022 or 2023.

council study session item

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

Also, thumbs up for Eastside Pathways organization
Councilmembers on Monday endorsed Bellevue's participation in Eastside Pathways, a new organization whose mission is to "mobilize our entire community to support every child, step by step, from cradle to career.

"Families, providers, schools and cities unite around common goals, measurements, and strategies to maximize each child's opportunity for a productive, fulfilling life."

Launched earlier this year, Eastside Pathways seeks to apply a "collective impact" model that unites many service providers, including the school district and City of Bellevue, to maximize the effectiveness of the community resources in support of children. It's similar to the Wrap-Around Services model in Bellevue, in which the city, school district and United Way collaborate to provide services for children.

So far, 38 local educational, philanthropic and service agencies have expressed interest Eastside Pathways' effort. The city's endorsement does not involve a financial commitment at this time.

council agenda item

Feedback: Patrick Foran, Parks and Community Services Director, 425-452-5377 or pforan@bellevuewa.gov

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