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Hearing on Sound Transit's East Link Also a Debate over Bellevue's Future Character

Bellevue hopes to include requirements for mitigation in an agreement with Sound Transit over the East Link tunnel. Public hearing was the latest stand of supporters of a light rail alignment that was rejected by Sound Transit.

The recent public hearing on an agreement on East Link that Sound Transit and Bellevue are aiming to reach by an Oct. 25 deadline was also debate over the future character of Bellevue.

The public hearing was the latest opportunity to give input on . The city also hopes that the binding agreement will outline the ways that Sound Transit will minimize the light rail impact to the surrounding neighborhoods.

The tunnel would add $276 million to the $2.5 billion cost of the East Link project, which connects Seattle with the Eastside through Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond. The Sound Transit board .

Some speakers also took the opportunity to encourage the city council to continue to advocate for of the B7 light rail alignment – an alignment that roughly follows Interstate 405 on the BNSF line and one that was rejected by Sound Transit in favor of an alignment that follows Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue.

“I did want to bring to your attention… the disruption of lives and homes as part of this project,” said Wendy Jones, who lives in Surrey Downs, one of the neighborhoods that will feel a direct impact from the project. She said that as many as 53 homes could be taken as part of the project.

“To me this represents an inordinate number of families. Yes they will be reimbursed, but at what level in this economy? City council, please take your time to consider, and remember that the B7 alignment alleviates all those impacts,” Johnson said.

Kathleen McDonald, who lives in Enatai in a house her family bought 60 years ago in what was once a dirt road on a wooded hill, said that her family has seen Bellevue change and even felt direct impact and lost some of their property when the Interstates 405 and 90 interchange was built. Enatai is another neighborhood that will feel a direct impact to the project.

“Do we wish Bellevue Way wasn’t widened? Do we wish Bellevue Square wasn’t there? No, we we’ve moved forward from that,” she said. “One day my mother realized that there tall buildings in Bellevue. What happened to that rule that you could only go two stories? Because that was the character of Bellevue and we had to retain it. I'm sure that decision wasn't sudden." 

"Don’t go backwards, keep going forward, because there is nothing that’s happened that’s made this city so beautiful that we wouldn’t undo," McDonald said.

The B7 alignment was favored by the majority of Bellevue council members and was the subject of a , but it was not included as one of the Sound Transit board’s preferences.

The city has also been taking public comment by meeting one-on-one with households that will be affected directly by the light rail line.

As part of the agreement city officials hope to include ways that Sound Transit will lessen the visual, sound and traffic impact to the neighborhoods along the Sound Transit line, including the Bellefields, Surrey Downs, and Enatai neighborhoods.

Officials with the city and Sound Transit have been meeting since August to reach the agreement, and the city has been updating the council every meeting.

The city also has been , including prioritizing road projects that would help alleviate some of the East Link impacts, waiving of fees and purchasing properties that will contribute to the light rail line or its construction.

Surrey Downs resident Arjun Sarohi said that not all the impacts to his neighborhood have been considered or been documented by the Sound Transit documents so far, and that the city should continue to push for B7.

“We want it done right and it must be done in the right timeframe,” Sarohi said. “If this were a multiple choice test, I would say this is a trick question. None of the above.”

But many speakers encouraged the council to reach an agreement with Sound Transit, saying that the project had been studied enough.

“It’s time to sign the MOU, roll up your sleeves and start to work with Sound Transit,” said Enatai resident Joe Burcar. “We won’t tolerate more delays, more studies and we definitely won’t tolerate money spent for litigation. If there are questions to be answered, it’s a good opportunity to answer it with Sound Transit."

Scott Rodgers, who represented a condominium property on 112th Avenue Southeast, said that residents there want a decision made and the route planned so they can move on with their lives. He also encouraged the city reach an agreement with Sound Transit.

“A world class city needs a world class transportation system,” Rodgers said. “The only thing that is keeping us from doing this is a political agenda.”

John Niles September 28, 2011 at 04:14 PM
Note http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/BillPopp-NEPAcommentsEastLink8-15-2011.pdf filed by a Bellevue resident with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has to approve Bellevue's light rail before it can go further.

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