Revised rail route in Bellevue costly
Bellevue City Council members who want to move a planned light-rail line away from neighborhoods and arterial roads south of downtown may have a tough challenge convincing Sound Transit to spend an additional $138 million.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bellevue City Council members who want to move a planned light-rail line away from neighborhoods and arterial roads south of downtown may have a tough challenge convincing Sound Transit that's a good idea.
The latest version of their plan could attract adequate ridership by building a station near Interstate 90 on the edge of the Enatai neighborhood, but city transportation officials have told the agency it would drive up the cost of the East Link project by an estimated $138 million.
That cost difference could be a deal-killer at a time when tax revenue available for the East Link rail project is 26 percent below projections, and the agency is looking at shortening its South King County rail line by two miles.
Spending more on the South Bellevue rail segment also will be a tough sell because the city already has asked the agency to build a $300 million tunnel below downtown, City Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who is on the Sound Transit board, said after a consultant's report on the revised rail route Monday night.
"What we've done with this report is take a $300 million problem and made it a $400 million or $450 million problem," said Balducci, who supports Sound Transit's proposed route along Bellevue Way Southeast and 112th Avenue Southeast. Bellevue has agreed to bear $150 million of the tunnel cost.
Redmond Mayor and Sound Transit board member John Marchione said he wants to "manage the cost of East Link so it makes it all the way to Microsoft in Redmond," giving voters what they were promised in 2008 when they authorized the expansion of Sound Transit's light-rail line.
County Councilmember and Sound Transit board member Julia Patterson said she thinks "there would have to be some incredibly compelling statistical information about ridership or safety" for the board to agree to a more costly route through South Bellevue.
A narrow majority of the City Council, saying Sound Transit's Bellevue Way route would disrupt streets and neighborhoods, wants the rail line to cross the Mercer Slough beside I-90 and follow the abandoned BNSF rail corridor to 118th Avenue Southeast.
Sound Transit tentatively rejected the city's preferred route, saying Bellevue Way would cost less and draw more passengers. But Bellevue's consultant, Arup North America, told the council Monday that moving a station to Enatai would boost projected ridership on the BNSF alignment from 49,000 passengers a day to 50,500.
When citizens are told the BNSF route would mean fewer traffic problems and home displacements, "they love it. That's what I'm hearing at the doorsteps all over Bellevue," said Councilmember Jennifer Robertson.
Sound Transit's lower ridership projection for the BNSF route was based on locating a station on 118th Avenue Southeast south of Southeast Eighth Street. The city, hoping to draw more riders, asked Arup to study Southeast 34th Street and 112th Avenue Southeast in Enatai as the location for a station and four-story, 1,450-car park-and-ride lot.
City Councilmember Kevin Wallace, who supports the BNSF route, said he was concerned the Arup study may have overestimated the cost of the Enatai station.
Arup project manager John Eddy said a complicating factor for a rail crossing of Mercer Slough is that the Washington State Department of Transportation is studying whether peat movement in the slough is damaging the I-90 bridge.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.