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Originally published September 27, 2012 at 8:38 PM | Page modified September 28, 2012 at 9:06 AM

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Light-rail plans tweaked for Bellevue; public meetings soon

Sound Transit and Bellevue officials, who are on the verge of narrowing their choices for a final light-rail design, must first weigh some new ideas.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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THREE DROP-IN SESSIONS will be held next week to discuss the latest design and cost information for segments of Sound Transit's East Link light-rail route through Bellevue.

Here's the schedule, with the subjects to be discussed:

• Ideas for Bellevue Way Southeast, 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at New Hope International Church, 10808 S.E. 28th St.

• 112th Avenue Southeast ideas, 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Hotel, 300 112th Ave. S.E.

• Downtown Bellevue ideas, 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Ave. N.E.

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Sound Transit and Bellevue officials, who are on the verge of narrowing their choices for a final light-rail design, must first weigh some new ideas.

Among the $35 million to $86 million in cost-saving ideas under consideration, three represent the latest thinking on how a surface line could replace an expensive trench beside 112th Avenue Southeast without cutting off the Surrey Downs neighborhood's easy access to Interstate 405.

Other options — now familiar, but with new details and revisions — would replace a trench along Bellevue Way Southeast with a surface line, and would either redesign the downtown tunnel station or replace it with a surface stop.

Residents of the Surrey Downs and Enatai neighborhoods are objecting to a surface line they fear would be noisy and unsightly, and would disrupt car travel.

Bellevue and Sound Transit staffers, who briefed the transit board on the ideas Thursday, will outline them to the City Council Monday and hold public meetings Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The City Council and the transit board will decide in October which ideas to study in detail in an effort to offset Bellevue's share of the downtown tunnel cost by $60 million.

Three new options were developed to deal with access along 112th Avenue. One approach would extend Southeast Fourth Street over the rail line to a raised connection to 112th Avenue Southeast. That would allow southbound cars on 112th to turn onto Fourth and let eastbound cars on Fourth turn onto southbound 112th.

A radically different idea would turn Fourth Street into a dead-end and replace the existing intersection with a new road connecting 111th Place Southeast to Bellefield Park Lane and Southeast 15th Street through the Bellefield Residential Park condominiums.

A third option would leave most Surrey Downs residents with no direct outlet to 112th, instead allowing only emergency vehicles to cross the railroad tracks at Fourth Street.

Those three options would chop between $7 million and $16 million off the cost of Sound Transit's adopted plan, which would keep Fourth Street open by running trains through a trench below it.

The Surrey Downs East Link Committee objected to any road closures. If the Southeast Fourth Street and Southeast First Place connections to 112th Avenue are cut, owners of 250 homes there would each lose an average of about $68,000 to $85,000 in value, the committee said. Residents also would have to drive an extra mile — or 285,000 miles a year — to get to and from I-405, the committee said.

Sound Transit designed the trench as mitigation for noise and access problems, said committee spokesman Arjun Sirohi. "Even before the mitigation is put in place they're saying, 'We'll remove that mitigation.' It doesn't make sense."

Here are the cost-saving ideas:

• Replacing a trench with a surface route near the historic Winters House, adding a southbound HOV lane and moving Bellevue Way Southeast about 40 feet to the west. A retaining wall up to 45 feet high would hold back the hillside. Saves an estimated $7 million to $11 million.

• Eliminating a trench on 112th Avenue with a surface line and providing a Fourth Street crossing for emergency vehicles only. Saves $9 million to $16 million.

• Eliminating a trench on 112th Avenue, and maintaining one-way access to Fourth Street on a raised "Texas T." Saves $7 million to $12 million.

• Replacing Fourth Street access with a new 11th Place-Bellefield Park Lane-15th Street connection. Saves $7 million to $13 million.

• Downsizing the platform and mezzanine, and modifying the vent system in a downtown tunnel station on 110th Avenue Northeast station. Saves $6 million to $10 million.

• Narrowing 110th Avenue station by stacking eastbound and westbound platforms. Saves $8 million to $13 million.

• Moving the 110th Avenue station to a surface location on Sixth Street and building an access route for the police department. The station would be slightly farther from some downtown residents and workers. Saves $23 million to $39 million.

Transit staffers also have found $15 million to $20 million in savings through more efficient construction.

Don Billen, deputy director for Sound Transit's East Link project, said it will be easier to control noise on 112th Avenue than Bellevue Way. Sound walls or in-home sound insulation will be needed for some homes.

In some cases for Enatai homeowners along Bellevue Way, Billen said, the homes may, after mitigation, have lower noise levels than what they experience today.

Bill Popp, a traffic engineer who has been critical of Sound Transit's plans, said a new road connection through the Bellefield Residential Park condos might require a property purchase of up to $50 million, and he said a Sound Transit drawing of a surface Main Street station shows a pedestrian crossing of the tracks — which, under agency standards, would require bells that neighbors have objected to.

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

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