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Originally published June 14, 2012 at 7:21 PM | Page modified June 14, 2012 at 9:35 PM

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Bellevue merchants warn against cheaper light-rail solutions

The Bellevue Downtown Association warned city and Sound Transit officials Thursday not to sacrifice future light-rail ridership in the search for a cheaper downtown Bellevue station.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Bellevue Downtown Association warned city and Sound Transit officials Thursday not to sacrifice future light-rail ridership in the search for a cheaper downtown Bellevue station.

In a letter to the Bellevue City Council and the Sound Transit Board, BDA Chair Brian Brand and President Leslie Lloyd said two possible redesigns of the underground station below 110th Avenue Northeast are unacceptable because they would require entrances in what is now part of the road, increasing downtown traffic congestion by 5 percent, according to an early city-Sound Transit estimate.

The BDA said a third option, moving the station to City Hall Plaza near Northeast Sixth Street, is undesirable because it would affect the city parking garage, Police Department entrance and development potential of an adjacent property.

Writing on behalf of the BDA board of directors, Brand and Lloyd didn't flatly rule out a station beside Sixth Street but said a suggested open-air station there wouldn't provide enough comfort for what is expected to be the most-used station on the Eastside.

The BDA leaders noted their organization originally supported an underground station at 108th Avenue. Sound Transit's decision last year to locate the tunnel and station on 110th Avenue instead will reduce ridership slightly, they wrote, adding, "We believe moving the station out of the tunnel and farther east would further erode potential ridership."

Bellevue and Sound Transit are looking for ways to reduce the cost of the $2.8 billion Seattle-to-Redmond rail project, particularly Bellevue's share of the $320 million downtown tunnel.

Negotiators for the two jurisdictions have suggested studying in detail these possible changes in the plan:

• Moving the downtown station to Sixth Street or building a less expensive underground station by stacking one rail line above the other below 110th Avenue.

• Bringing a Bellevue Way Southeast segment of the line out of a planned trench and protecting the adjacent Winters House by shifting the road to the west or moving the house.

• Eliminating an elevated rail crossing of 112th Avenue Southeast, instead running the tracks below an elevated roadway.

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

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