The 10/29/13 post commented on the lack of “progress” reports concerning WSDOT/Sound Transit tests confirming 4-car light rail train operation would be allowed on I-90 Bridge. (East Link is the first light rail installation on a floating bridge.) This post raises similar concerns about the lack of information concerning ST plans for the Bel Red area.
The Sound Transit staff has conducted several open houses dealing with the status of the Bel Red light rail stations at 120th and 130th. Their notification for “sharing design plans” for the Overlake Village and Overlake Transit Center stations later this month includes the following:
The Overlake segment open house gives future light rail riders, transit center users and community members the chance to look at design concepts and provide feedback on the Overlake light rail segment and stations.
Sound Transit appears to be well along with their plans for the Bel Red light rail stations and willing to share those with the public. They’re far less open with details of critical issues to light rail installation and operation there. For example, what is the status of their plans for the maintenance facility that the Bellevue City Council and Bellevue Reporter initially opposed? ST has apparently “persuaded” the Bellevue City Council (no surprise) to accept the facility there, but what are their plans for “visual screening and noise mitigation” of a potential “eye sore” in the midst of the development?
The more difficult issue is what are ST plans for dealing with the noise from light rail trains trundling through the area every 4-10 minutes for 20 hours each day. A March 2013 document “East Link Extension, 2013 SEPA Addendum” reflects their need to expand on the June 2011 Final Environmental Impact Statement concerning their approach to light rail noise along the route into Bellevue and through the city center.
The addendum details how property acquisition will displace large numbers of businesses and homes and that mitigation will be required to avoid excessive noise for 400 noise “receptors”. The mitigation will involve “trenching” part of the route and installing “noise walls” up to 18 feet above retaining walls along the remainder. In some instances they will consider “insulating” houses along the route “allowing” them to shorten noise walls.
In any case its clear ST considers light rail noise a serious issue.
The noise envelope for the elevated tracks along major sections in the Bel Red area would seem to be a far more serious concern than for at-grade tracks along the route into Bellevue. Central Link experience has also shown relatively small radius turns along the elevated Bel Red route can be particularly “noisy”. One would think ST would consider plans for noise mitigation to be at least as important as the final details for station design. However, the SEPA addendum makes no mention of any plans for mitigation and there has been no indication of any upcoming public presentations on the issue. It’s just the latest example of ST’s misplaced priorities.
What’s absurd is noise mitigation wouldn’t even be an issue if ST had ever considered a “South Lake Union” type of streetcar system for Bel Red. It would have been far less noisy, more accessible, less costly, and more esthetically appealing than any light rail system (see 7/26/12 post). Of course all of the noise walls and trench on the route into Bellevue would not have been needed with BRT. Sooner or later everyone is going to recognize that not only East Link, but the entire Prop 1 light rail extensions are an “unmitigated” disaster. This blog is my attempt to make it “sooner”.