Bellevue urges new route for light rail
The Bellevue City Council agreed Monday night to ask Sound Transit to study a new proposed light-rail alignment for South Bellevue.
Seattle Times Eastside reporter
In a potential shift for light-rail alignment in South Bellevue, the Bellevue City Council agreed Monday night to ask Sound Transit to study a new route through the city that largely avoids Bellevue Way Southeast and cuts through Mercer Slough Nature Park.
The council agreed to make the request in a letter that outlines specifics of the new route and why Sound Transit should consider it this late in the process.
Sound Transit already had selected a preferred alignment for South Bellevue last year, one that would run up Bellevue Way Southeast. The transit agency has said that about 15 percent of the engineering work for that segment is done, according to Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who is a recent appointee to Sound Transit's board.
But the council makeup changed after the November election, and now a majority — including new members Kevin Wallace and Jennifer Robertson — favors a route along the BNSF Railway, parallel to Interstate 405, rather than the Bellevue Way route.
The City Council can only make a recommendation to the transit agency. The Sound Transit board is expected to make the final decision on the light-rail route for Bellevue later this year. Light-rail service to Bellevue is projected to start in 2020.
Last year, the council voted 4-3 to recommend a Bellevue route that stopped at an expanded South Bellevue Park-and-Ride. From there, the route would run up Bellevue Way Southeast, turning at 112th Avenue Southeast and heading up toward Main Street.
The new route, first proposed last week, also would stop at the South Bellevue Park-and-Ride station but then head east, cutting a path through the Mercer Slough Nature Park north of Interstate 90, then turn north and follow the BNSF right of way along I-405. The new route would require environmental-impact studies to determine whether it is feasible.
"I don't think it's anybody's first choice," Balducci said of the proposed route during Monday's discussion. "It's a compromise on everybody's part."
The council also is still discussing its preference for a downtown alternative, including a proposed light-rail tunnel.
Sound Transit officials recently suggested a meeting between the Sound Transit board, the Bellevue City Council and their respective staffs to hash out more details about route alignment in Bellevue, Balducci said.
"We want to take a unified position so we can get Sound Transit to listen to us," Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee said during the discussion.
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or email@example.com
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