The May 23rd Bellevue Reporter article concerning Bellevue City Council’s objections to Sound Transit plans for maintenance yard in Bel Red raises several questions. The most obvious is why hasn’t the council made relocating the maintenance yard outside the Bel Red area a pre-condition for approval of the 10 permits ST needs for East Link.
The council apparently has never recognized they could use the permitting process to “influence” Sound Transit East Link decisions. Five years ago they could have required Sound Transit consider two-way bus rapid transit (BRT) on the center roadway as the “no build” solution. Any competent analysis would conclude BRT had far greater capacity and access than light rail ending East Link and the resultant disruption to the lives of those along the route into Bellevue.
Instead they have “worked hard with Sound Transit to allow light rail into Bellevue”. Their “hard work” allowed ST to never consider a tunnel for the route into Bellevue, instead agreeing to pay an extra ~$200 million for a tunnel under the city center. (ST made no demands for additional funding when they recently decided to extend the Central Link tunnel all the way to Northgate.) The council also “accepted” the ST preferred route into the city rather than a BNST route that would have minimized the impact on Bellevue residents.
The other obvious question is how is it possible the preferred ST maintenance yard location “violates all the planning that has been done”. The 2008 Draft Environmental Impact Statement” (DEIS) included the current location as one of the options more than 5 years ago. One would have thought those doing the “planning” would have “discovered” this issue a long time ago. Particularly since Mayor Balducci has been a Sound Transit Board member during that period.
ST has three alternatives for dealing with the maintenance yard location. The first is they can expand the current facility along Airport Way to accommodate more cars. Second, they can choose the Lynnwood location. It’s hard to claim doing so would increase costs since all the trains that go to East Link will also be routed to Lynnwood. The third option (this blog’s preference) is they eliminate the need for additional equipment by replacing cross-lake light rail with BRT and eliminating Lynnwood and Federal Way extensions. Unfortunately if “past is prolog” the council will again capitulate to ST demands for the maintenance yard.
Even if they succeed in moving the yard, of all the possible disagreements the council could have had with ST concerning East Link, the adverse affects of the maintenance yard in Bel Red pale in comparison to the impact of the inevitable frequent I-90 gridlock from ST decisions to confiscate the center roadway for light rail to replace cross-lake buses. Also those living along the route into Bellevue and eventually even those in the Bel Red area will suffer far more from light rail construction and operation than they would ever be affected by the maintenance yard location. The council’s failure to recognize these realities is another reason they deserve to be on the “Light Rail Hall of Shame”.