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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Downtown Bellevue East Link workshop draws predictable NIMBYist opposition

Earlier tonight, a packed house attended Sound Transit's fourth East Link workshop, held in at City Hall in downtown Bellevue, where residents were invited to submit comments about Sound Transit's plans for the voter approved project.

Throughout the presentation, we were given an overview of the different ideas. The current Sound Transit preferred alternative is C4A.

C4A would be an at grade alignment running down 108th Ave and 110th Ave from Main Street to NE 12th, crossing Interstate 405 at NE 12th St.

It's an alignment that voicferous critics of the project wasted no time in taking to the woodshed. Tom Ruttkamp, who lives downtown, alleged:
There's probably not a single person in this room who supports the C4A approach... It will destroy our city, it will destroy our traffic patterns, it will create congestion, it will have safety impacts, yet Sound Transit just goes merrily along with its preferred approach.
Many others in the audience were hostile to Sound Transit too, claiming East Link will destroy their neighborhood. Speaking afterwards to NPI, Ruttkamp took the opportunity to extend and revise his remarks.
They want to run a train down our street... The only reason they want to do it is because it's the cheapest way to do it. And that's the only answer that they ever have. It's cheapest. Well, there's lots of things in life that are cheapest, but they're not the best.
But even his denunciation of East Link couldn't match the effusive objections made by a crew of Surrey Downs residents who are fiercely opposed to any proposed alignment within a mile of their homes. With Councilmember-elect Kevin Wallace as their leader, they demanded that Sound Transit forget about going through downtown and instead run the line along Interstate 405.

Their ironically named "Vision" plan would have a Bellevue Transit station on 114th St, six blocks away from the Transit Center.

In addition, the "Hospital" station would be behind Whole Foods, crossing a busy street. It would also be at least a 10 minute walk from Overlake Hospital.

Asked for comment, Sound Transit officials explained to NPI that the "Vision" proposal is problematic because it is simply too far away from homes and businesses. The "Vision" proposal would not have the high ridership of the preferred alternative and is not consistent with the project's objectives.

But this did not stop Surrey Downs residents from claiming the "Vision" proposal would "get rid of noise vibrations" and "increase ridership".

There's really no need for Surrey Downs residents to freak out about noise pollution. If they're not bothered by auto traffic going by their homes today, then they shouldn't fret about light rail. Nevertheless, Sound Transit is prepared to help the community reduce noise pollution, whether it be from light rail or cars. According to Patrick McHugh, a concrete wall expert, it is possible to construct barrier walls which can completely mitigate any noise.
If neighborhoods have whisper walls surrounding the light rail, the sounds will just bounce off each other.
Soundproofing homes is also a possibility, the agency says.

Sound Transit staff also presented other options they are looking at, including C9T, which is somewhat different from the preferred alignment. C9T has a Bellevue Transit Center station on 110th Ave and NE 4th St in addition to a Hospital station right next to Group Health north of NE 8th St and West of NE 116th St.

In addition to C9T, two new at grade level alternatives are under consideration. C9A, an at surface alternative for C9T, and C11A.

C11A would go from Main Street to NE 6th Ave at grade, link up with the existing Bellevue Transit Center, and then across NE 6th.

On December 10th, the Bellevue City Council will pass along a recommendation to the Sound Transit Board detailing their preferred alignment.

NPI urges the City of Bellevue to work together with Sound Transit to find the best option for East Link. We look forward to participating in and covering future workshops and stakeholder meetings. And we urge members of the Sound Transit Board not to let NIMBYism interfere with the final alignment decision.

This voter-approved project is simply too important to Eastside neighborhoods to have its design dictated by a few vocal, fearful residents.


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