The 4/28/15 post raised questions as to “what happens if Sound Transit is unable to install light rail across I-90”. They were prompted by Sound Transit’s apparent failure to provide the I-90 bridge design risk assessment they promised during the February 9th meeting with the Bellevue city council.
The response from the Bellevue transportation staff at the 4/20/15 meeting was the East Link MOU agreement with ST only extended to I-90. The implication being the MOU would result in a light rail system from the Bellevue P&R to Overlake T/C without a “link” across I-90 Bridge. In effect, an ST “East” light rail system.
While any ST decision not to install light rail on I-90 Bridge is welcome (more on that in a later post), the council’s apparent willingness to proceed with “East” light rail is beyond absurd. The only viable part of East Link would be the expansion of the South Bellevue P&R needed to increase access to cross-lake buses.
There is absolutely no reason to devastate the Bellevue Way/112th Ave route into Bellevue and spend billions and 7 years creating a noisy light rail system that will end the quiet solitude of the Mercer Slough Park. (How many I-90 corridor commuters in either direction would chose to drive to the P&R to catch a light rail train into Bellevue city center?) There is also absolutely no reason for the council to give ST some $100M and allow them to wreck havoc for years constructing a light rail system under the city center.
The Bel Red benefits from an “East” light rail would be dwarfed with a South Lake Union (SLU) type of streetcar system. The SLU would be more esthetically appealing and far less expensive. The tracks could either loop around or run parallel through the area west of 140th or 148th with connections across I-405 to the Bellevue T/C. (520 bus routes to Bellevue T/C or across Lake Washington to a University light rail station T/C would be far better for meeting “Microsoft” transit needs.)
Street level tracks could be used since the reduced frequency along with the lower speed would not be nearly as hazardous to north-south vehicle traffic as frequent high-speed, 74-ton light-rail-car trains. (Street-level cars work fine on South Lake Union route.) The tracks would be less intrusive and provide greater accessibility from more stops than the two elevated light rail “East” stations.
SLU streetcars would also be far quieter. Light rail noise prompted the council to force ST to provide detailed plans to mitigate the noise for properties along the East Link route into Bellevue. Yet ST plans for Bel Red East Link (and presumably MOU “East” light rail) appear devoid of any attempts to mitigate the noise there. Properties along a huge swath on both sides of the tracks, would likely need to be “sound proofed” to be “livable” with light rail trains trundling through the area.
In conclusion, ST will probably come up with an I-90 bridge design that allows East Link to proceed, even though at best, it will never have the needed capacity. Its bad enough the BCC doesn’t recognize that reality and the debacle awaiting east side residents (and the entire area) if they sign the permits ST needs. It’s utter stupidity to allow an “East” light rail without the “link”.