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East Link Money Saving Ideas in Early Stages: Move Winters House, Change Track Elevation

Sound Transit will host an open house on the changes Thursday.

Moving the historic Winters House? Realigning Bellevue Way? Changing the elevation of a light rail track near Surrey Downs?

Even if ideas save big money, Sound Transit should continue to look at money-saving ideas for its future East Link light rail line, but not at the cost of Bellevue's quality of life, Bellevue City Council members said Monday.

That was the message at a presentation of potential cost saving ideas Monday night, ahead of an open house for the public planned Thursday.

Mayor Conrad Lee told Sound Transit and city transportation staff that the council's first concern is maintaining the quality of life in Bellevue neighborhoods and businesses most affected by building the light rail line. The comes near the neighborhoods of Surrey Downs and Enatai and through downtown.

"Foremost is mitigation. We want to do the right thing for the public. And then, costs," Lee said. 

Deputy Mayor Jennifer Robertson said that the ideas were in their early stages, but that the primary concern was impacts to the neighborhoods and businesses.

"These are not done deals, they may bear fruit, they may not," she said.

"All the Bellevue members of the leadership team were asking what are the noise impacts,  what are the visual impacts what are the traffic impacts.... Until we know that, from my perspective, I won't know if these are good ideas are not," she said.

Sound Transit told the city council said that the ideas were in their early stages and that more engineering would have to be done on them before precise numbers on cost-savings could be estimated.

However, council members criticized Monday's presentation as too preliminary to be informative and told the staff that Thursday's presentation needed to have more accurate drawings.

Councilman Don Davidson pointed out that Sound Transit's drawings of changes to the Downtown Bellevue station showed unrealistic changes and were not to scale.

East Link Executive Director Ron Lewis said that the drawings and concepts would refined further and presented to the council, the public and Sound Transit again in May and June.

Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue are looking for . An agreement between the agency and the city means that Bellevue will cover $100 million of that cost with tax breaks, property acquisition and other actions. The city also plans to cover $60 million of the cost of the tunnel with cash -- unless cost savings can be found in the line through Bellevue.

The entire 14-mile line that will connect Seattle's Central Link with the Eastside through Redmond via a light rail system through Mercer Island and Bellevue will cost $2.5 billion and is expected to open in 2023.

Among the ideas circulated included:

  • Changing the plan for a proposed covered trench near the Winters House on Bellevue Way, which houses the Eastside Heritage Center and which is a historic property, by putting the light rail line on the surface and moving the road to the west away from the historic landmark or moving the landmark to the east, further into the park or elsewhere, according to Sound Transit staff.
  • Changing a proposed trench near Surrey Downs Park by changing the track alignment.
  • Redesigning the downtown Bellevue tunnel station so it is less deep, narrower, or partially on the surface.

Geoff Patrick, Sound Transit spokesman, told Patch last week that the open house will include a presentation of different cost saving ideas, staff to answer questions, and various displays outlining the project.

East Link Timeline

  • April 2012 - Concepts introduction: April 23, City Council briefing; April 26, Sound Transit Board briefing, Public open house at Bellevue City Hall.

  • May 2012 - Technical findings: May 24, Sound Transit Board briefing; May 29,  Bellevue City Council briefing; early June, Public open house.

    June 2012 - Identify the concepts for inclusion in value engineering and environmental review: June 14, Sound Transit Capital Committee; June 18, Bellevue City Council; June 28; Sound Transit Board.

  • 2013 - Continued development of identified cost savings concepts. Prepare additional environmental documentation, if any. Final decision on cost savings concepts no earlier than 2013.
  • 2015 - Final Design.
  • 2015-2022 - Construction.
  • 2023 - Service Begins 

If you go

Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue will jointly host an open house on the night of Thursday, April 26 to discuss design options and cost saving ideas for the East Link light rail project.

The open house will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 26 at .

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