Bellevue council backs downtown tunnel
A united Bellevue City Council agreed Monday night to support a light-rail tunnel for downtown Bellevue. The council directed city staff...
Seattle Times Eastside reporter
A united Bellevue City Council agreed Monday night to support a light-rail tunnel for downtown Bellevue.
The council directed city staff to draft a letter to Sound Transit supporting a tunnel that would run along 110th Avenue Northeast. Six council members said they supported the tunnel; Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee was not present.
"The tunnel is still the preferable solution," said Councilmember Grant Degginger. "It goes where people want it to go. It will be the best long-term solution."
The cost for a tunnel along 110th Avenue Northeast is $285 million more than budgeted for that portion of East Link, the light-rail line that will run from Seattle to Overlake, but on Monday, City Manager Steve Sarkozy outlined ways the city could cut project costs.
The cuts — worth $104 million to $150 million — included contributing back to the project additional sales-tax and business-tax revenues the city receives as a result of the light-rail project, helping to make city property along the route more affordable and streamlining permitting, Sarkozy said.
Sound Transit staff also could find ways to cut costs, such as applying savings from other parts of the line to a tunnel, he said.
Councilmember Kevin Wallace, who spearheaded an effort for a downtown light-rail line that would run along 114th Avenue Northeast, also backed the tunnel Monday. But he said he did not support using Bellevue's tax revenues to help pay for it. He wants to find ways to cut costs, saying Sound Transit's cost estimates are "bloated." He also wanted to ensure light rail was underground near the Surrey Downs neighborhood, just south of downtown.
Last year, the council endorsed a tunnel that would run underneath 106th Avenue and would have cost roughly $600 million more than East Link's budget. Sound Transit staff began to study the shorter and more affordable 110th Avenue tunnel in the fall.
The downtown light-rail route discussion was a marked contrast to recent rancorous debates about the South Bellevue portion of light rail. Last week's meeting included allegations that some council members had violated the state's open-meetings act.
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