Council wants tunnel for Bellevue light rail
The Bellevue City Council unanimously voted Monday to send a letter to the Sound Transit board endorsing a downtown tunnel.
Seattle Times Eastside reporter
The Bellevue City Council joined together Monday night in support of a tunnel for the city's downtown light-rail route.
The council voted 7-0 to send a letter to the Sound Transit board recommending a cut-and-cover tunnel that would run up 110th Avenue Northeast, where it would serve Bellevue's busy business and retail district as part of the East Link light-rail line approved by voters in 2008 and scheduled to open in 2020.
"The message that really needs to come from this is we're serious about it," said Councilman John Chelminiak. "This is the way to serve downtown Bellevue, to get to the downtown Bellevue core."
In one design, the route would cut across property now occupied by a Red Lion hotel at Main Street and 112th Avenue Southeast, and cross 112th as an elevated line before descending into a tunnel entrance south of Main at 110th and heading north. Trains would surface from the tunnel at Northeast Sixth Street and cross Interstate 405.
The tunnel is estimated to cost $285 million more than allotted for the downtown Bellevue segment, but the city has come up with a plan worth $104 million to $150 million to help cover the costs. The city said it would contribute additional sales-tax and business-tax revenues it receives as a result of the light-rail project, and it would help make city property and other rights of way along the route more affordable to Sound Transit.
Sound Transit last year endorsed a downtown light-rail route on surface streets along 108th and 110th avenues northeast, despite a request from the council to consider a tunnel under 106th. The transit board said last year that it would consider a tunnel if additional funding were found.
In the fall, Sound Transit studied four alternative routes, including the council-endorsed shorter, more affordable tunnel on 110th and a line proposed by Councilman Kevin Wallace that would run along 114th Avenue Northeast. The transit board said it would reconsider its preferred alternative for downtown and is expected to discuss the matter in late April.
At Monday's meeting, council members expressed concern about a design that would take an elevated train across the northeast corner of the Surrey Downs neighborhood. In its letter, the council suggested ideas for that portion of the route including a tunnel entrance on the Red Lion site or running the elevated train farther north and having it turn on Second Avenue instead of Main Street.
Monday night's discussion was far less contentious than recent meetings that were marked by fiery debate over the light-rail route for South Bellevue. The council recently changed its position on South Bellevue, endorsing a line that would run parallel to I-90 before heading north on the BNSF Railway corridor.
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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