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Council member Balducci appointed to Sound Transit board
Posted by Nicole Tsong
Bellevue council member Claudia Balducci was appointed to the Sound Transit board of directors today, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced.
Balducci, a council member since 2004, is joining the board as Sound Transit heads into a final decision on its light rail alignment for Bellevue.
I reached Balducci today and asked her thoughts on possible light rail alignments for Bellevue, including a new proposed tunnel that would run on 110th Avenue Northeast downtown.
Here's what she had to say.
Q: You are representing Bellevue just as the board is coming to key decisions on alignment for Bellevue. What new perspective will you bring?
A: I'm tuned into what the issues are in Bellevue and what the needs are of the city and can bring that perspective to the regional discussion. The Eastside board members have done a really good job. We appreciate that a lot. ... That said, I don't think there's a substitute for someone who knows how the place works on a day-to-day basis and will help inform good decision making.
Q: What's your preferred alignment for the downtown corridor?
A: My bias is toward any alignment that serves the [Bellevue] Transit Center very well. The closer we can get to the Transit Center the happier I am.
Q: What do you think about the new proposed tunnel that would run along 110th Avenue Northeast?
A: It makes it a significantly more affordable tunnel, a $200 million difference. That's without putting any extra money in at all, we just designed away $200 million worth of our problem. I think there's a lot more good thinking that could go into bringing that gap down. That said, there's several options on the table, given the constraints on financing. All are worth a look, anything that would allow traffic to circulate in downtown Bellevue and be affordable. It would be irresponsible not to look closely at all options, as well as the new one proposed by council member [Kevin] Wallace. [His proposed alignment is known as the Vision Line, and would run along 114th Avenue Northeast, parallel to I-405]
Q: What is your preference for the alignment for the area south of downtown?
A: For the B segment, my interest has always been to continue to serve the really strong transit market we already have in south end of Bellevue, concentrated at the South Bellevue Park & Ride. My primary concern with B7 [an alignment that skirts Bellevue Way and would run north on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks along I-405] is it does away with that. It moves the station location to a place where it no longer effectively serves a large part of Bellevue already well served by transit. Where the line goes is almost less important than where the stations are. If we can find a way to do that while protecting neighborhoods, then I'm certainly interested in discussing that as well.
Q: How soon do you expect to start discussing light rail alignment with the council and the board again?
A: I think we're all going to be revisiting our preferred alignments for both Bellevue and the board. There are some really intriguing new ideas about how we can save money, limit the impacts to Bellevue's very constrained street system and provide excellent performance. ... There's been quite a bit of study both at the city and Sound Transit on these newer alignments. A lot of information could come out in the next several weeks.
Q: What will your approach be for juggling the preferences of both the City Council and the board?
A: We have a very thoughtful council. It was true before the election and it's true now. My approach is going to be to work with the interests involved and come to a solution that meets the needs as best as possible. I'm really optimistic there's a solution that will reach a consensus at both the board and the council.
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