The July 10th Bellevue Reporter article “Bel-Red may lose its hyphen” prompted me to propose it should lose Sound Transit Prop 1 East Link light rail service. A “South Lake Union” type of streetcar system would provide an “urban village” atmosphere that would be far more attractive for the area.
It would be far less intrusive with streetcars routed on street-level tracks either around the periphery or on parallel tracts bisecting the area between 116th and 148th. The tracks would be routed via an I-405 overpass to Bellevue T/C to provide access to and from “outer world”. Its construction and operation could be scheduled to meet local demand. East Link, when complete in 2023, will result in four 74-ton cars trundling through the area every 4 minutes on tracks (part of which will be elevated) for more than 18 hours a day.
The streetcars would require a small maintenance facility that could be located anywhere along the route, with limited operating hours. East Link will require setting aside 25 acres of valuable Spring District area for a maintenance facility that, not only detracts from the area’s ambiance, will result in disruption from light rail train operation for 20 hrs a day.
Streetcars riding on street-level tracks would provide access with “fixed” or “on-demand” stops along the entire route. There would be little need for parking to provide access to transit. East Link will have stations on 120th and 130th, with parking for 300 cars at the 130th station. While the 120th station will provide access to the Spring District development, the 130th station will be a long “walk” for those who want access to and from transit for most of the Bel-Red area.
Another major streetcar benefit is reduced noise. It has never been an issue along South Lake Union route. However, Central Link train noise in Seattle has required Sound Transit insulate homes 300 ft away because of noise from two-car trains on street level tracks. Residents along Martin Luther King Way who have lived for years with vehicle noise have needed major modifications to make their homes livable.
Sound Transit has spent years developing plans for spending millions to shield properties hundreds of feet away and across Bellevue Way from East Link noise. Yet Sound Transit has made no attempt to mitigate the noise from 4-car trains running on elevated tracks at least part of the route in the Bel-Red area when East Link begins operation. They apparently believe those who live or work along the route can make their own “sound proofing provisions”.
Lastly, a streetcar system running on street level tracks requiring no expensive stations and minimal maintenance facilities should be far less expensive to create and operate than light rail. It could also be in operation well before East Link.
In conclusion, streetcars are a far better choice for Bel-Red than light rail. Rather than concern themselves with the “hyphen” the Bellevue City Council needs to make them a reality by refusing to approve the East Link permits.