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Originally published August 8, 2011 at 10:44 PM | Page modified August 9, 2011 at 8:13 PM

Bellevue keeps light-rail plan, talks with Sound Transit going

The Bellevue City Council agreed Monday to continue negotiating with Sound Transit on a light-rail route from Interstate 90 through downtown to the Bel-Red corridor. The council approved a preliminary agreement that differs slightly from one approved by the Sound Transit board last month.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Bellevue City Council agreed Monday to continue negotiating with Sound Transit on a light-rail route from Interstate 90 through downtown to the Bel-Red corridor.

The council approved a preliminary agreement that differs slightly from one approved by the Sound Transit board last month. The pact envisions a tunnel through downtown and a South Bellevue line running along Bellevue Way Southeast and 112th Avenue Southeast.

Monday's vote came after the council narrowly defeated Councilmember Kevin Wallace's proposal to delete language that prohibits the city from taking legal action against Sound Transit while negotiations continue. Bellevue and Sound Transit want to reach a legally binding agreement by the end of October.

Mayor Don Davidson cast the deciding vote to keep language saying the two sides wouldn't sue each other while continuing to talk. "I was more interested in giving a green light to the negotiations than worrying about all the politics," Davidson said.

Had the council deleted the waiver of litigation, Sound Transit would have had to go back to the agency board for approval of the revised agreement, Assistant City Attorney Kate Berens told the City Council.

The Bellevue council made other changes that aren't expected to jeopardize talks: spelling out the city's goals more fully and deleting a statement that the city "generally supports" Sound Transit's preferred route through South Bellevue.

The Sound Transit board last month endorsed an Eastside rail route that includes a tunnel through downtown Bellevue, but the decision was contingent on Bellevue agreeing to shoulder $160 million — or about one-half — of the tunnel cost and supporting Sound Transit's preferred route south of downtown.

The Bellevue council Monday night changed the language to say $150 million in 2007 dollars.

The only vote against the preliminary agreement was cast by Conrad Lee, who said the two-step bargaining process was confusing.

Sound Transit has agreed to consider measures to reduce traffic congestion and noise along the transit agency's preferred route along Bellevue Way Southeast and 112th Avenue Southeast.

Those measures include eliminating at-grade crossings along 112th Avenue, moving a planned station from Southeast Eighth Street to Main Street, installing noise walls and adding a new southbound lane to Bellevue Way.

A majority on the council spent the past year and a half trying to persuade Sound Transit to shift to a South Bellevue route they said would cause fewer neighborhood disruptions: a route crossing Mercer Slough just north of Interstate 90 and following an abandoned freight-rail corridor into downtown.

But when a city-sponsored study showed the council's preferred route would cost about $138 million more than Sound Transit's route, city officials shifted their focus to reducing impacts of Sound Transit's route.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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