Sound Transit Eastlink – which alignments?


By Conrad Lee and Don Davidson

Bellevue City Council members

Now that Sound Transit Eastlink has been overwhelmingly approved by voters, regional high capacity transit (Light Rail) is coming to the Eastside. We must make sure we do it right. Which alignments are chosen will determine the transportation system, land use and growth on the Eastside and Bellevue for the next hundred years. Sound Transit is conducting an DEIS to choose the preferred alignments. Inputs are being solicited from citizens and City of Bellevue. Your input is crucial to influence Bellevue City Council and Sound Transit’s decisions. If the wrong choices are made, we will be paying for the mistakes and the costs to correct those mistakes for decades to come. We’ll try to provide you here with some of our thoughts. Then you let us know.

The most controversial debate appears to center around whether Light Rail will travel along Bellevue Way with a station at South Bellevue Park/Ride or along Burlington Northern right-of-way with a station at SE 8th/118th SE. The answer for us is simple. The Light Rail should travel along Burlington Northern right-of-way.

First, look long-term. This is the first building block of an eastside regional system that will be developed over the future years. Second, a regional system is to provide connection between urban centers, not to provide local connection.

Bellevue’s long-term vision is clear. We are and will continue to be the center of fast-growing Eastside. High Capacity Transit will connect to and from Bellevue, west to Seattle, east to Issaquah and beyond along I-90, south to Renton and beyond and north to Woodinville and beyond along I-405.

For a regional system to work properly, it must connect to a local inter-modal distribution network at a regional/local transit hub that can serve the Eastside for the next fifty years or more with good accessibility and capacity. Logical locations are along I-405 near Bellevue downtown and accessible to many Bellevue neighborhoods. SE 8th /118th SE is such a location. South Bellevue P/R is not.

All alignments will have its share of adverse impacts, but the Burlington Northern right-of-way alignment would have the least to the neighborhoods and communities. The impact crossing Mercer Slough is only a matter of now or later when the system is extended further to the east. The potential impact of light rail such as increased density to neighborhood and changed character is not consistent with South Bellevue’s already well-planned, well-developed neighborhoods and communities. Construction and loss of lanes to Light Rail will greatly impact the neighborhood and increase congestion. Its location is also incompatible with future expansion of regional transportation system serving the Eastside, south and north.

Burlington Northern right-of-way alignment is the right choice.