East Link – At Last Sanity Prevails

This may be old news but since I previously posted my views (here and here) this latest development deserves coverage. Last Thursday (July 28th) the Sound Transit board (“ST”) threw down the gauntlet by voting 15-2 to proceed with East Link based on the previously selected B2M/C9T alignment. This vote, once signed-off by the FTA, essentially moves the light rail project out of the planning phase towards construction. Now the fun really begins…

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, the contentious B2M alignment, while by no means perfect, is the best among available options. And despite the city council’s opposition it is the route supported by most of Bellevue’s citizens. Furthermore, and quite unexpectedly, B2M has the support of the residents and businesses whose properties will be directly impacted.

I must say I applaud ST’s decision to commit to C9T (the downtown tunnel option); especially considering the uncertainty following all the BS from Bellevue Councillors over the last year or so. C9T is the best solution for Bellevue, the one preferred by most citizens, and it is supported by the city council. However I was expecting ST to opt for the safer choice – C11A (downtown street-level) – the one they know they can deliver with or without Bellevue’s support.

Of course since only the C11A option is currently funded ST wisely made their C9T decision contingent on a legally binding funding agreement, and they have set an October deadline for Bellevue. In the event that no agreement is reached, ST will still run trains through downtown Bellevue; they’ll just be above ground.

Actually that scenario holds some perverse appeal for me: I picture Bellevue Barbie all pissed off in her Beemer, Benz, or obscene Escalade. She just left Darth Freeman’s Bellevue Square; she’s late for her salon/tanning/gym appointment – whatever the pampered bitch wastes her days with – but she finds herself instead made to wait for ages at a traffic light while those dirty, smelly transit users pass by on an East Link train. Now that would make me smile.

However, back to reality, where there is a potential fly in the ointment. I speak of Darth Freeman’s ongoing lawsuit: his disgusting attempt to stop WSDOT converting the I-90 center roadway across Lake Washington from unidirectional peak flow express lanes to bidirectional light rail. I only hope common sense will prevail here as it did with the Bellevue alignment.

The I-90 upgrades to support light rail are already underway. When completed in 2014, total vehicle lane capacity will match what we have today, but with bidirectional rather than unidirectional express lanes operating on the outer roadways. Add the twin light rail tracks to the center roadway for East Link and you have an enormous increase in people moving capacity.

It goes without saying that I’m big on light rail: I just wish it would reach Bellevue sooner. Assuming no acceleration of the 2022/2023 timeline, I seriously doubt that we will still be living in Bellevue when the trains start to run. Assuming we move across the lake to a Seattle neighborhood, you can bet access to a light rail or streetcar line will be a major factor influencing our decision.

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