Sound Transit, Bellevue moving forward with East Link

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Final agreements clear the path for light rail construction to the Eastside

Sound Transit and City of Bellevue leaders have finalized agreements to move ahead with construction of the voter-approved East Link light rail line in a way that minimizes construction and operations impacts to neighborhoods, confirms the city's financial contribution to a downtown tunnel, and promotes the city's Bel-Red Corridor land use vision for transit oriented development.

"This caps years of hard work between Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue," said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "With this unprecedented partnership, we will reduce the tunnel's cost to Bellevue, while helping to deliver East Link on schedule and promoting transit-oriented development throughout the Bel-Red Corridor."

"Today's agreement is an important milestone in the continued partnership between the City of Bellevue and Sound Transit," said Sound Transit Board member and Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci. "We're now poised to moved forward and begin building the system to serve the people of the Eastside and the region. I look forward to joining the many people who will be riding this train on the east side in 2023."

The Sound Transit Board of directors approved the agreement today. The Bellevue City Council unanimously approved the agreement at its April 20 meeting.

"I am extremely pleased with what our Council was able to achieve on behalf of the City by working together and building consensus," said Bellevue Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace. "The agreement leaves the city in the black financially and sets the framework for the exceptional mitigation of noise and traffic impacts that our neighborhoods and businesses expect and deserve. I also appreciate the collaboration we achieved with Sound Transit, and I look forward to seeing that relationship continue as construction moves forward."

A 2011 Memorandum of Understanding outlined up to $160 million in city contributions to a downtown Bellevue light rail tunnel. Since then, Bellevue and Sound Transit officials have worked continuously to find solutions for reducing costs. Through that process, the agreement  finalizes Bellevue's upfront contribution at $100 million.

In addition to finalizing the city's financial contribution to the project, which ensures inclusion of the downtown tunnel and other mitigation measures in the project design, the agreement includes terms surrounding the potential Operations and Maintenance Satellite Facility (OMSF). 

As part of an ongoing environmental process studying multiple sites, the Sound Transit Board identified a location within Bellevue's Bel-Red area as its preferred alternative, and is expected to make a final selection later this year after the environmental review is complete.  The new agreement includes provisions to address the potential OMSF and its impact on the transit-oriented development that is the centerpiece of the city's long range plan for Bel-Red.

With the terms of the agreement with Bellevue set, the Sound Transit Board adopted a $3.6 billion lifetime budget for East Link. The baseline budget includes a $33 million contribution from Microsoft to fund a bike/pedestrian bridge over SR 520 at the Overlake Transit Center Station and a $10 million contribution from the City of Redmond towards a pedestrian/bike bridge over SR 520 at the Overlake Village Station.  The new bridges create a direct connection to the Microsoft campus and other businesses on the north side of SR 520.

By 2030 the 14-mile East Link line is projected to carry about 50,000 riders each weekday with stations in Seattle, Mercer Island, South Bellevue, downtown Bellevue and the Bel-Red and Overlake areas. As the region's population continues growing, East Link will provide expanded transportation capacity in the I-90 corridor. Increases in the length and frequency of trains over time offer the capacity to carry from 8,000 to 12,000 people per hour in each direction, more than doubling the person-carrying capacity of I-90.