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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Council Roundup: Fresh ideas for East Link route

Also, parking garage planned for downtown library

On Monday, the Bellevue City Council reviewed new ideas aimed at working out a mutually agreeable plan with Sound Transit for a future light rail route through Bellevue. The concepts are the result of recent talks between city officials and Sound Transit staff on East Link.

In dealing with Sound Transit, Bellevue officials are taking a multi-pronged approach, said City Manager Steve Sarkozy. The approach includes negotiation and mitigation.

Discussions with Sound Transit were initiated by council members Kevin Wallace and Grant Degginger, along with Sarkozy. Degginger said the talks focused on trying to mitigate noise, traffic and visual impacts, "the ones we've heard about in the community so many times over so many years in conversations about this project."

Bellevue has been at odds with Sound Transit over where the East Link light rail route should be located in South Bellevue. A council majority has favored a route along Interstate 405 into downtown while Sound Transit has favored one that would run parallel to Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast.

On Monday, Sound Transit staff presented some fresh ideas to provide the "exceptional mitigation" council members say they are seeking for the Bellevue Way/112th route.

The most important change described by Sound Transit officials would eliminate the need for light rail trains to cross 112th Avenue Southeast at street level by elevating the tracks over the roadway. That would eliminate the need for warning bells and crossing arms, thus reducing noise and traffic congestion.

Another significant mitigation measure would relocate a proposed street-level light rail station from Southeast Eighth Street to a location farther north, near Main Street. That proposed station would be slightly below ground level, helping reduce noise to nearby properties.

An important factor in the talks is Bellevue's desire for a downtown light rail tunnel, in order to minimize traffic congestion and reduce travel times. Previously, Sound Transit said a tunnel would cost roughly $300 million more than a street-level alternative. Last year Bellevue officials signed a draft agreement that the city would pay up to $150 million through "in-kind" contributions toward a tunnel. Based on recent discussions, the council could review and take action on an updated term sheet as early as next week.

Those involved in recent negotiations are being motivated by the calendar. After Sound Transit released a long-awaited final environmental impact statement in early July, the agency's Board of Directors could decide on a final preferred route at its next meeting on July 28. The Federal Transit Administration is expected to make a "record of decision" on the project by this fall.

East Link will run from Seattle, through Mercer Island and Bellevue, to the Overlake area of Redmond. Service is projected to begin in 2022 if a street-level route is chosen for downtown Bellevue, and by 2023 if the tunnel option is selected.

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

Parking garage planned for downtown library
The council Monday got a chance to review plans for a three-level parking garage to be built for the Bellevue Regional Library downtown.

The King County Library System is building the 250-stall garage to replace an 80-stall surface parking lot. Combined with parking now available under the library, the garage will add 163 parking stalls, hiking the total from 199 to 362.

Usage of the library, at 1111 110th Ave. NE, is expected to increase by at least 5 percent. The library now averages 68,000 visitors a month.

The city granted design review and conditional use permits for the garage in May. Like the parking lot it will replace, the garage will have driveways on Northeast 12th Street and 110th Avenue Northeast. To improve its appearance for neighbors and passersby, the garage will feature plant trellises along roof edges and planting islands on the roof.

On Monday library and city staff focused on efforts to minimize impacts on library patrons, neighbors and users of nearby Ashwood Park during construction, set to begin in September. The garage is scheduled for completion in September 2012.

The city will make 51 stalls in the Ashwood Park parking lot available to library patrons, locating park events elsewhere.

KCLS will encourage patrons to reserve books and other materials for pickup at other branches. Library employees will park at an off-site lot. KCLS director Bill Ptacek said KCLS will also publicize transit routes and possibly establish a system for local library uses to borrow bicycles to go to and from the Regional Library.

Feedback: Carol Helland, Land Use Director, 425-452-2724 or chelland@bellevuewa.gov

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