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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Council Roundup: Hammering out agreement on light rail

Also, action on community solar panels, pedestrian safety

The City Council on Monday considered a draft, non-binding agreement with Sound Transit that eventually could lead to a contract spelling out how the two parties will work together on the East Link light rail project.

A major piece of the term-sheet agreement outlines how the city will help Sound Transit afford a downtown light rail tunnel. Council members past and present have unanimously endorsed a tunnel as necessary to minimize traffic congestion and speed up the regional transit system.

After taking into account cost savings measures it has already implemented, Sound Transit expects the tunnel to cost about $276 million more than a street-level alternative. The city is being asked to come up with about half of the tunnel's cost using in-kind contributions -- approximately $160 million worth -- to help pay for it.

Another important element of the agreement is where and how light rail should run from Interstate 90, along Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast, to downtown Bellevue.

The council, along with members of the public, expressed concern about how to mitigate noise, traffic and visual impacts of the route on nearby neighborhoods. The council also agreed on the importance of more public involvement so community members have input on remaining decisions.

Last week, by a 15-2 vote, Sound Transit's board approved a light rail route through Bellevue that includes the downtown tunnel. The board's endorsement is contingent upon completion of the updated term-sheet agreement by Aug. 10, paving the way for negotiation of a binding memorandum of understanding by Oct. 23.

On Monday, the council directed staff to make several changes to the draft term sheet and work with Sound Transit to come up with a mutually acceptable version. The council will make a decision on the revised agreement at its next meeting on Aug. 8.

Mayor Don Davidson raised specific concerns with parts of the agreement, but was pleased with Sound Transit's decision last week. "I really do think the vote and the way they've approached this is great," Davidson said. "It certainly indicated an interest in negotiating our differences. I feel that's what we're starting off to do."

East Link will run from Seattle, through Bellevue, to the Overlake area of Redmond. Construction is expected to start by 2015 and service is projected to begin by 2023 if the tunnel option is selected.

Feedback: Diane Carlson, Director of Intergovernmental relations, 425-452-4225 or dcarlson@bellevuewa.gov

Community solar panels for maintenance facility roof
The council also approved a "community solar lease" to Seattle-based Tangerine Power to install solar panels on the roof of the Bellevue Service Center, which houses the city's maintenance operations.  

Under the lease, which would run through June 2020 with an option for a five-year extension, Tangerine would pay the city $2,000 per year in rent, payable in electricity for the building. If the panels don't generate that much electricity, the company will pay the difference in cash. If the panels generate more electricity, the city will reimburse the company.

Puget Sound Energy and Tangerine will meter the amount of electricity generated. Tangerine is responsible for construction, maintenance, insurance, permits and recruiting community contributions for the project.

To involve members of the public, the company will sell shares in the project for $1,000 each. Participants would then be eligible to receive incentive payments based on the sale of electricity in excess of expenses. 

The project is made possible by a state law passed in 2009 that provides financial incentives for renewable energy systems.

Feedback: Emma Johnson, Resource Conservation Manager, 425-452-5246 or ejohnson@bellevuewa.gov

Pedestrian safety improvements for Northup Way
The council accepted a $355,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation that will fund crosswalk improvements on Northup Way intended to make it safer for pedestrians.

From 2007 to 2009, there were eight accidents involving pedestrians on Northup Way between 156th and 164th avenues Northeast. 

The crosswalks at 156th and 164th avenues will be realigned to improve the visibility of pedestrians and a mid-block crosswalk will be shifted from west of 160th Avenue to east of it to better match pedestrian crossing patterns.

Feedback: Jen Benn, Transportation Program Manager, 425-452-4270 or jbenn@bellevuewa.gov

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