East Link – The Saga Continues

To be a transit advocate in Bellevue, particularly for light rail, is a frustrating ordeal. As time passes the East Link project approved by voters in 2008, instead of getting closer,  slides further away. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever ride a light rail train from Bellevue in my lifetime…

Last week the Sound Transit board was presented with the latest East Link project update and within days the project website began displaying revised milestones. Service from Bellevue has been pushed back two years: to 2022 for the downtown surface alignment; 2023 for the downtown tunnel option.

It’s not clear if this delay is due entirely to the intransigence of Bellevue’s City Council but their shenanigans can’t be helping. I blogged about this situation last July after local community interests-business and residential-unexpectedly united in favor of Sound Transit’s preferred 112th Avenue alignment B2M. The council’s response: authorize spending $670K for yet another study of the dead-horse B7 alignment.

All this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the local papers…

Bellevue’s light-rail study a waste of time and money – Seattle Times

The cost of dithering: Bellevue rail delayed to 2023 – Seattle Times

Bellevue debate delays East Link light rail by another year – Seattle PI

Sound Transit ready to ‘pull the trigger’ on East Link – Bellevue Reporter

Major employers – some very big names – voiced their displeasure (download pdf)

And I have contributed my own 2-cents for what it’s worth…

Wake up Bellevue City Council and stop wasting our tax dollars. As if study after study ad nauseum isn’t bad enough, if reports are true that you won’t discuss funding C9T with Sound Transit unless they cave to your demands for B7R, then shame on you. And don’t even get me started on the trivial lawsuits brought by your paymaster puppetmaster.

Here’s what I see… If you won’t work with ST to insure B2M/C9T can be built in the shortest possible time and with the least impact to downtown Bellevue then you’ll leave ST with no option but to make these choices for you and then invoke their legal powers under state “Essential public facility” law to get it done.

A majority of your constituents agree that while not perfect, B2M/C9T is the best scenario for Bellevue. But if you continue to be uncooperative, what we’ll end up with is center median running on 112th SE and a surface alignment through downtown.

Are your collective memories so short that you’ve forgotten what happened in Tukwila in 2004 when that city decided to be unreasonable? It doesn’t matter today whether the outcome was good or bad – bottom line is Central Link got built, and Tukwila had little say in the matter when they removed themselves from the process.

There’s no such obstructionism going on in Seattle where the University Link project is proceeding full steam ahead. The first tunnel boring machine (“TBM”) recently launched and is digging the first of two tunnels from the University to Capitol Hill. A second TBM is in position at Capitol Hill and will launch shortly towards downtown Seattle.

Click for full size

Last Saturday The Spouse, the daughter and I walked from downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and back; we happened to pass the station site so we stopped to take a look. I took this photo through one of the viewing portals. The conveyor system seen on the left will handle the excavated material coming back from the TBM as it bores through the ground.

The sheer size of the station excavation is quite impressive: 400 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 60 feet deep. When completed in 2016 the construction staging area surrounding the underground station will be made available for transit oriented development (“TOD”) projects.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the Capitol Hill station site provides a pretty good preview of what station construction might look like in downtown Bellevue if the tunnel option is chosen. The only difference with the East Link scenario is that cut and cover tunneling, rather than twin bored tunnels, would be employed. Therefore the station might not need to be quite so deep.

If you’re interested in keeping tabs on construction progress at Capitol Hill, a webcam is now set up. Images update every 15 minutes.

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