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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Council roundup for the week of April 27

Bel-Red financial options and SR 520 bridge replacement discussed

Council briefed on Bel-Red financial options
The City Council was briefed Monday on the potential for using developer impact fees to fund transportation and parks improvements in Bel-Red and other places in the city.  

Aerial view of the Bel-Red areaCity staff have made several presentations on Bel-Red to the Council in recent weeks in preparation for a May 25 public hearing before the Planning Commission. Last week, possible affordable housing strategies for Bel Red were discussed.

The City Council is scheduled to vote this fall on a comprehensive new land use plan for the 900-acre area northeast of downtown that would guide its gradual transition from a light industrial area to one featuring office space and housing developments, as well as new streets and parks.  

Under state law, cities can utilize impact fees providing they are planning under provisions of the Growth Management Act. However, such fees can only be used to fund such facilities as roads, schools and parks directly associated with a new development.

Even though most of Bellevue's neighboring cities and King County presently impose park impact fees, Bellevue does not. The Washington Association of Cities estimates that at least 59 cities throughout the state currently impose such fees.

The briefing on impact fees was part of a larger discussion on a broad financial strategy for Bel Red initiated several weeks ago. Since 1990, the city has imposed an impact fee citywide to help pay for transportation needs. Last May, council members directed city staff to work with the Transportation Commission to review the program and investigate ways to simplify fee calculation methods.

On Monday, Council members told staff  to continue that work, but directed them to investigate the potential for impact fees in Bel Red as part of Bellevue's comprehensive citywide long-term capital funding program.

The council also instructed staff to work on a public outreach strategy to ensure stakeholder participation in the discussion.

City planners earlier estimated that ideally $450 million in capital investments would be funded in the Bel Red area by 2030 through a variety of sources, including the city's general revenues, development incentives and potential impact fees.

The Bel-Red pages offer more information on the Bel-Red planning process.

SR-520 improvements presented
Reopening a familiar issue, state Department of Transportation officials Monday presented the state's plan to replace a six-mile stretch of State Route 520, including the Evergreen Point Bridge, by 2018.

Experts say the bridge, which was built more that 40 years ago and now carries about 155,000 people a day, is vulnerable to earthquakes and windstorms. A new floating bridge would be built to withstand strong earthquakes and windstorms up to 95 mph.

Recognizing that the SR 520 corridor is a key transportation and economic link to the Eastside, moving commuters, travelers and freight, the Bellevue Council has played an important role in planning for a new bridge.

The updated replacement effort crafted by state lawmakers fits closely with what Bellevue and six other Eastside cities supported in a joint interest statement in 2006.

Among other things, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Clyde Hill, Medina, Yarrow Point and Hunts Point called for a six-lane bridge that includes a variety of types, or modes, of transportation. They agreed to work with the state DOT to minimize neighborhood impacts and assist in finding the funding needed for bridge and corridor improvements.

Bellevue's emphasis on a "multi-modal" transportation system also includes support for the extension of a light rail system through Bellevue, providing alternatives to driving alone, a downtown circulator/shuttle bus, and a bus rapid transit route provided by Metro, called RapidRide, connecting downtown Bellevue to downtown Redmond. Bellevue is also working with the state DOT on road projects to relieve congestion on I-405.

The state DOT officials briefed the Council on what the agency is doing to comply with legislation passed in 2007 and earlier this year.

The state's plan calls for a six-lane bridge, with four lanes dedicated to general purpose traffic and two lanes for transit and high-occupancy vehicles, early construction of traffic improvements from Lake Washington’s eastern shoreline to 108th Avenue Northeast in Bellevue, and a committee to study how to mitigate the impacts of tolling, which could come as early as mid-2009.

A new, larger bridge with HOV lanes would move more people across the lake, provide a bicycle/pedestrian path and include pontoons that could accommodate high-capacity transit in the future. The entire project area begins at I-5 in Seattle and extends to 108th Avenue Northeast in Bellevue, just west of I-405.

Council members were told the total cost for the project ranges from $3.41 to $5.72 billion, depending on what options west of Lake Washington are selected. Three options are being considered for the approach in Seattle, from I-5 to the bridge, ranging in price from $1.63 to $3.85 billion. The cost to build a new floating bridge and to improve the Eastside approach is $1.77 to $1.87 billion.

According to state transportation officials, the timetable for SR 520 work calls for a final environmental impact statement to be finished in 2009, construction to start in 2012, a new bridge open to drivers in 2014 and project completion in 2018.

The Council Agendas and Council Minutes pages offer complete information regarding Council meetings.

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Contact: Lenka Wright, Chief Communications Officer
Phone: 425-452-4090
E-mail: lwright@bellevuewa.gov

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