BBB Releases Its Eastlink B7 Light Rail Route Analysis and Findings

BBB Releases Its Eastlink B7 Light Rail Route Analysis and Findings

Building A Better Bellevue has completed its B7 Route Analysis study. Our study findings and recommendations were released to regional news media, and also presented to local community leaders on December 1.

The central conclusion of our study: Sound Transit’s B7 Route Plan To Bring Light Rail Into the City of Bellevue Included Unnecessary Features Apparently Intended to Defeat Its Acceptance.

Sound Transit’s preliminary design of the unselected B7 Rail Line alternative through the City of Bellevue includes elements that unnecessarily increase construction costs, property acquisition costs and environmental risks. The combination of design decisions made and construction techniques specified assured that substantial added costs would be required to build its B7 light rail line route option, thereby making the route unacceptable.

Analysis by Building a Better Bellevue’s B7 Experts Study Team has found that the cost of an “optimized” B7 route would likely be significantly less than the cost of Sound Transit’s B7 design alternative. The added costs of Sound Transit’s B7 route plan, compared to better design and construction options, range between $30 and $120 Million. Additionally, our experts found that an optimized B7 route would also succeed, when compared to Sound Transit’s preferred B2M route (Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue SE), when other B-Segment route decision criteria used by Sound Transit are evaluated.

Based on our team’s findings BBB has recommended a formal investigation into the reasons why Sound Transit purposely specified costly design elements, thereby making the B7 route unacceptable due to its cost and alleged environmental risks.

In more detail, the following B7 Route elements presented in Sound Transit’s DEIS and SDEIS reports raise significant questions as to their necessity and/or sufficiency of analysis:

1. A Redundant and Costly New Bike and Walking Trail

Placement of an exceptionally wide bike path and walking trail along the entire length of the BNSF portion of the B7 route provides evidence of requiring unnecessary and costly requirements. Adding this trail element became a “critical” design requirement for Sound Transit. The fact that a long-used, and superior bike path and walking trail already exists immediately adjacent to the B7 rail line route was given no consideration.

2. A Wide Project Footprint With Questionable Rail Line Placement

Choosing not to utilize the center area of the BNSF rail bed, instead moving the train rails to the west side of the right-of-way, requires extensive movement of soil, and construction of substantial retaining walls along the entire length of the north/south portion of the B7 route. This choice also adds to the noise burden by elimination of berms and moving the rail guideways closer to existing multi-family residences, thereby requiring greater use of noise walls and other noise mitigation techniques.

3. An Excessively Large Park and Ride Facility Placed Near Sensitive Areas, Requiring the Taking of Expensive Private Property

Also adding to the challenges of implementing Sound Transit’s B7 plan are its specifications for a large park and ride facility along 118th Avenue SE, at SE 8th Street, adjacent to a sensitive wetland, and requiring the taking of a substantial amount of private commercial property while incurring employment losses. The size specification for this facility is twice as large as needed for its projected usage. This specification makes it less feasible to locate the facility at a more logical place, such as the existing Wilburton Park and Ride lot on the north side of SE 8th Street along I-405. A more appropriate Park and Ride facility can be built at the intersection of I-90 and South Bellevue Way, yielding better ridership than ST’s preferred Bellevue Way option, plus better transit operations during the construction period and thereafter, as a result of retention of the existing South Bellevue Park and Ride function.

4. Bridge Structure Across the Slough Constructed Using Costly Methods

The construction methodology set forth calls for a separate temporary bridge structure to support cranes, etc. needed for installing the permanent bridge components. This is the most expensive method available for bridge construction, and also causes the greatest environmental damage. The temporary bridge cost approaches that of the new bridge itself. Other design alternatives and construction options are available that are cheaper and have fewer environmental impacts, and should have been considered.

5. Failure to Utilize Unused Roadside Right of Way Along the West Side of I-405, Requiring the Taking of Expensive Commercial Property

Sound Transit determined that a large new storage facility structure, on the west side of I-405, must be taken to accommodate its design for an elevated rail guide way placement near the north end of the B7 route. More than adequate space is available to build a retained fill guideway if an easement is sought from WSDOT to use a very small portion of their right-of-way along the western edge of the embankment running along the west side of I-405, thereby avoiding the taking of any private property.

6. Environmental Risks Overstated

Sound Transit’s DEIS and SDEIS reports found dramatic environmental risks associated with their B7 version. These risks included sizeable wetland and park area impacts, extensive wildlife challenges, as well as residential noise exposure issues. Many of these environmental risks are directly associated with the westerly movement of the rail line route to accommodate their proposed bike and walking trail. This resulted in unnecessary removal of existing berms and flora along the BNSF rail line right of way and construction of extensive retaining walls. Sound Transit also called for placement of a rail crossover very near residences at the south end of the BNSF right of way, when other alternative locations with little or no noise impacts are available. Wetland area and park impacts are primarily due to their conservative bridge construction techniques assumed for crossing Mercer Slough which led to assumption of construction seasons of more than one year and translating thus to permanent direct impacts. Sound Transit has also raised stability risks to the existing I-90 roadway, resulting from building a new rail line bridge across the Mercer Slough peat bog. However, this peat bog stability risk has been discounted by an expert within WSDOT and a geotechnical consultant experienced in working in this material.

Better Bellevue’s engineering experts team has identified a number of alternatives to the design options set out by Sound Transit for the B7 route. The team believes that a redesigned B7 route, utilizing these alternatives, would eliminate many of the costs and environmental risks identified by Sound Transit. If adopted, the reduced costs and environmental risks achievable through use of these alternatives are expected to make the B7 route considerably less expensive, along with having substantially fewer environmental impacts than Sound Transit’s preferred B2M route, while yielding comparable ridership and better speed performances. The new B7 engineering study now underway by the City of Bellevue is expected to substantiate these findings.

Building A Better Bellevue will release the complete details of our findings and recommendations in a series of reports on our website. These reports contain many tables, charts and graphs needed to fully explicate and detail our research and findings. Some of these materials are quite technical in nature, but are necessary to fully detail the complex engineering considerations used by Sound Transit in fashioning their proposed B7 design, as well as to substantiate the benefits of the route alternative proposed by Better Bellevue.

Readers who wish to view the entire scope of BBB’s findings immediately can download a copy of our formal presentation document, as well as of our complete documentary report by linking to the following two website URLs using your browser:

Presentation: http://c0029894.cdn2.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/B7_Presentation.pps

Report Document: http://c0029894.cdn2.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/B7_Fatal_Flaws.pdf

(Please note that the files are very large and will take some time to download.)

Better Bellevue’s B7 Experts Team began its analysis work in early August. This work included an exhaustive review of Sound Transit’s DEIS and SDEIS reports and other supplemental materials made available to our team by Sound Transit. The team also conducted extensive in-the-field observational research as well as geotechnical and structural engineering observations. Experts at WSDOT, and at other agencies and firms with expertise in constructing rail facilities in wetlands and along transportation rights-of-way, as well as environmental protection specialists were also consulted. Hundreds of hours of study and examination were dedicated to these activities.

Team members also met frequently to consider findings and weigh their interpretation together in order to assure that all nuances and potential errors were uncovered. Drafts of the final report, and of the presentation document proceeded through numerous iterations to assure accuracy and completeness. Final drafts were then submitted to external peer review experts for their consideration, editorial advice and suggested revisions.

Based on this extensive work and independent review, the Building A Better Bellevue Steering Committee recommends this work with confidence in its conclusions and recommendations.

Building A Better Bellevue’s leadership, and our supporters, owe the members of our experts team much gratitude for their commitment and demonstrated performance. This work could not have been completed without their very generous contributions of time and expertise. This expertise is very extensive. The combined professional work history of the team members comprises more than 250 years of professional practice, working as principals/partners/executives in widely recognized firms, and with major clients, national and international, as well as local and regional. Their expertise includes training and experience in the fields of management consulting, civil engineering, structural engineering, traffic engineering, geotechnical engineering, transportation planning, financial analysis, financial accounting and auditing, land use law, regulatory analysis and review, and organizational behavior.

Building A Better Bellevue Steering Committee sincerely thanks all the members of our experts team for their very valuable contributions in helping to assemble our documents.

Bellevue’s residential neighborhoods, and our city‘s businesses will be greatly impacted by the B2M (Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue) light rail line option being pursued by Sound Transit. We anticipate that the findings reported here will make a valuable contribution to help shape an acceptable light rail alignment into our city.

We also thank those members of our Bellevue City Council who have courageously stood for placing the proposed light rail line on the B7 (I-90/BNSF) route.

As our Steering Committee noted in the announcement of the creation of our organization, “Compromising our core values is not the measure by which our city has thrived. Our city has thrived precisely because we have only undertaken that which would be best for our future.”

Building A Better Bellevue, and its supporters, will work tirelessly to protect the always quiet, peaceful and safe environment of our neighborhoods, as well as our wilderness areas, as we have long known them. We will accept no compromise in this regard.

The Building A Better Bellevue Steering Committee also thanks the many hundreds of Bellevue neighborhood residents who have contributed so generously of their financial resources and volunteered time to help aid our mutual cause. This work here would not have been possible without everyone’s help, and especially your financial and moral support.

We welcome your feedback and suggestions, as well as your questions. Look for a continuing flow of messages over the coming days as we serialize the presentation of the content of our report and presentation documents. All of this information is also being posted at our website: http://www.betterbellevue.org
Thank you for your attention, interest and support.

The Building A Better Bellevue Steering Committee
http://www.betterbellevue.org
info@betterbellevue.org

P.O. Box 40453
Bellevue, WA 98015-4453

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Puget Sound Business Journal Survey re: EastLink light rail route in Bellevue

There is a survey on the Puget Sound Business Journal website that asks which route folks would rather have in Bellevue- of course, it is not scientific, there’s no requirement that you actually live or work in Bellevue, and the verbiage appears to be leaning in one direction, but if you would like to take their poll: Click here

Here’s their question:

What light rail route should Sound Transit use through Bellevue?

1. A route across Mercer Slough Nature Park to 118th Avenue Southeast.
2. A route along Bellevue Way.
3. I am not sure.

It might be helpful to know that Sound Transit will probably be interested in crossing Mercer Slough for ST3 (to Eastgate & Issaquah, as well as providing access north to Kirkland and south to Renton) regardless of whether they do so for ST2, so if the Slough can be spanned now in current dollars, it would provide that many more potential riders for the system now.

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Building a Better Bellevue Large Signs on Private Property

The Building a Better Bellevue effort is truly a citywide, non-partisan one. We are receiving support from all over the City of Bellevue, either in direct financial support, volunteer time, or technical expertise.

As evidence of that, large signs are going up on private property in the Enatai neighborhood along Bellevue Way, where property owners are showing support for the BBB message- the Sound Transit light rail alignment through Bellevue belongs on the B7 alignment!

If you would like to support our cause and make that support a visual statement on your private property, please contact us at info@betterbellevue.org.

BBB will have photos of the new signs up shortly.

Thank you for your support!

-The Building a Better Bellevue Steering Committee

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Building a Better Bellevue’s Technical Experts are Evaluating the B7 Alignment

Building A Better Bellevue Web site: http://www.betterbellevue.org
P. O. Box 40453 Email: info@betterbellevue.org
Bellevue, WA 98015-4453

Dear Bellevue Neighbors and Better Bellevue Supporters, August 24, 2010

Last week’s Tuesday message (see: http://betterbellevue.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/building-a-better-bellevue-stands-behind-bellevues-environmental-cultural-heritage/ ) brought forth much interest from Bellevue citizens.

Comments and feedback has ranged from “what are they (Sound Transit) thinking – placing something so industrial and out-of-character along our wild Mercer Slough nature park,” to “they’ve never told us what this train running along our neighborhoods would look really like – thank you for now doing so,” to “will the trains stop when they encounter ducks and geese crossing over the 112th Avenue roadway from the Slough to the grassy feeding area in front of our Bellefield community, as cars and trucks routinely always do, or will they just “mow” them down?” Look for commentaries like these, and many more, that will begin appearing in the “Commentary” section of our website.

Still more folks wondered how Sound Transit could possibly even consider placing the train within mere feet of homes along the east edge of the Enatai, Bellefield and Surrey Downs communities without massive noise walls that would forever block the view that residents considered an essential element of their decisions to acquire their homes there many years ago.

This feedback indicates there is wide concern that Sound Transit HOLDS NO RESPECT for these critical elements of the residential life of our citizens residing along the Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue roadways, elements that are at the very core of the historical neighborhood character of the Enatai, Bellefield, Bellecrest and Surrey Downs communities. Some also wondered how any members of our Bellevue City Council could possibly consider such impacts to be acceptable given the recent (2008-09) updates they themselves made to our City’s Building Codes designed to protect neighborhoods’ character, or the recommendations provided to our City by the work of the Bellevue Best Practices Commission in 2008.

So, look for much more from us on these topics in the coming weeks.

THE B7 RAIL LINE – EMINENTLY BUILDABLE

Our panel of volunteer experts, which includes engineering and planning professionals with long experience in designing, building and evaluating transit systems, as well as other types of transportation systems projects, has been hard at work for weeks now looking into the feasibility of the B7 rail line route. Their work began with intensive review of documentation developed by Sound Transit and our City’s Transportation Department, and with examination of the City’s recent independent consultants’ studies.

The team is presently conducting extensive in-the-field examinations of the physical details of the entire proposed B7 rail line route, all the way from the point where the line would begin crossing Mercer Slough at the southwest corner of the Slough, immediately adjacent to I-90, to the curve where the bridge over the Slough would link up to the old BNSF (Burlington Northern-Santa Fe) rail line bed at the intersection of I-90 and I-405, to examining the BNSF rail bed that runs north along the west side of I-405, and including the rest of the route as it would pass north along the west side of I-405, and into the downtown. Hundreds of photos have been taken, placements of existing sewer piping, fiber optic cables, and other infrastructure are being examined, soil stability issues are under review, noise transmission effects to nearby homes are being considered, and other elements that would need to be accommodated in building the B7 rail line route are being evaluated.

Their preliminary findings thus far – the B7 route is a reasonable and feasible solution – because it is likely less costly to construct, appears to have few environmental impacts, should have limited noise impacts, of which most have already been mitigated during the widening of I-405, along with few impacts on fishery habitat and no changes to existing residential neighborhood character, while requiring little to no acquisition of private property, as well as having other favorable considerations. It would also establish an essential link now for extending light rail easily to Eastgate, Issaquah and beyond in the future.

More Info Coming on B7 Feasibility

We will have much more to provide to the citizens of Bellevue on these B7 feasibility topics as the work of our experts panel proceeds. So, stay tuned to our web site , and also watch for future issues of our Better Bellevue Tuesday Messages on your email.

If you are not already receiving these messages via email, and would like to do so, please go to the following page on our site < http://betterbellevue.wordpress.com/take-action/ > where you can register on-line for email messages to be delivered directly to you, as well as to be provided with notice of important new information and work results from our experts panel.

Signs and Donations

Donations to Building A Better Bellevue, along with the voluntary contributions of our experts panel members, are what make our work possible. Many neighbors have contributed already, but more support will accelerate the work presently underway. So, please consider adding to our momentum by contributing, if you have not already done so. Go to: http://betterbellevue.wordpress.com/donate/

Also, we have produced more of our red and white “No Trains In Our Neighborhoods” signs. Once again, go to our website signs page, or send us an email message and we will be happy to provide a sign to you for posting on your property.

Thank you for your support and attention,

The Building A Better Bellevue Steering Committee

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Building a Better Bellevue Stands Behind Bellevue’s Environmental & Cultural Heritage

Building A Better Bellevue Web site: http://www.betterbellevue.org
P. O. Box 40453 Email: info@betterbellevue.org
Bellevue, WA 98015-4453

Dear Bellevue Neighbors and Better Bellevue Supporters, August 17, 2010

We have heard from many Bellevue citizens in response to last week’s message on the legal case for our city’s rights to require Sound Transit to utilize our city’s preferred B7 route option. The focus of the majority of your comments – the legal framework presented by Building A Better Bellevue appears fully credible; and you EXPECT OUR CITY TO STAND BY THE LEGISLATIVE LANGUAGE AND THE INTENT OF THE LAWS DESIGNED TO HELP OUR CITY PROTECT OUR NEIGHBORHOODS.

Meanwhile, our experts panel continues to identify still more legal arguments that add to the very strong case for our city to be able to achieve its B7 route choice.

We have also heard from many folks in recent days demanding that Sound Transit respect the critical heritage elements that make Bellevue “a city in a park.” These concerns provide the framework for this week’s Building A Better Bellevue Tuesday message.

Preserving Bellevue’s Future and Our Past

The strength of communities, and of the city they comprise, relies upon both a clear vision of what is best for their future, and a clear understanding of what is essential from their past. Breaking that linkage destroys the role that history, environment and neighborhoods play in sustaining the sense of community over the long term, resulting in social anomie and the loss of cultural values and historical context.

Bellevue’s wondrous natural environments, created over eons of time, provide the unique framework for our city in a park. Once compromised, such natural environments are forever lost, especially when they are permanently damaged by the appearance, environmental impacts, and structural impediments of something as massive, outsized and noisy as Sound Transit’s light rail trains.

Is This The Portal Into Bellevue That Everyone Will See and Hear Every Day?

Sound Transit’s light rail technology and rail line infrastructure can hardly be considered aesthetically beautiful or visually attractive.

Quite the opposite, Sound Transit’s rail system appearance is industrial and utilitarian – more typical of what one would expect of a warehouse district or a factory manufacturing yard.

Placed in the environmental wilderness gem of Mercer Slough, and along the arboreal splendor of the Enatai, Bellefield and Surrey Downs neighborhoods, immediately adjacent to Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue, the rail line will establish an overwhelming industrial presence. This will completely compromise the only truly visually expansive and historically natural parkway portal into our “city in a park.”

Our sister city of Seattle would never allow a comparable structure to be placed in its most directly analogous region — Washington Park, or allow such rail infrastructure to be placed immediately along Lake Washington Boulevard East, directly adjacent to Seattle’s Montlake, Madison Park and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.

Yet Sound Transit applying the only criteria it deems applicable – ridership, cost, speed and technical feasibility – seeks to completely submerge and destroy those very physical qualities and natural features that are essential to the cultural history and neighborhood character of some of Bellevue’s most historically important founding neighborhoods.

Why The Law Provides for Local Jurisdictional Determinations

Washington State laws, and their implementing regulations, provide that the decisions of local governmental jurisdictions must be determinative with respect to the placement of rail line facilities when such jurisdictions’ recommendations for placement are based on reasonable and feasible alternatives.

These requirements were explicitly set out because the framers of these laws and regulations anticipated that local transit agencies would be tempted to drive forward with plans that addressed only financial and engineering considerations, rather than also providing for the full weight of the requirements of preservation of neighborhood character and culturally significant environments and facilities (such as the F.W. Winters House on Bellevue Way, the ONLY property on the Eastside on the National Register for Historic Preservation, or NRHP).

We believe there is ample reason why Sound Transit has refused to fully study (to the same level of engineering and environmental analysis as has been conducted with respect to the Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue routes) the feasibility of placing their light rail line along the B7 route chosen by our City of Bellevue political leaders. They have feared that such detailed study would prove that our City’s preference was fully feasible, even by Sound Transit’s own technical standards.

Concern for preserving the key features of Mercer Slough and the beauty of its nearby neighborhoods, both for today and for far into the future, is the reason why our city leaders have determined to challenge Sound Transit’s Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue rail line placement. For the good of our cultural heritage we all need stand by the commitment of our leaders to preserve our “city in a park” for everyone, forever into the future.

If you would like to contribute to Building A Better Bellevue, you can do so on-line at our web site, at: http://betterbellevue.wordpress.com/donate/ If you would like to place one of our yard signs on your property, or have other questions, please send a message to: info@betterbellevue.org

Thank you for your support and attention,

The Building A Better Bellevue Steering Committee

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Building a Better Bellevue Presentation to Bellevue City Council on 07.14.10

Building a Better Bellevue
P.O. Box 40453
Bellevue WA 98015-4453
Website: http://www.betterbellevue.org
Email: info@betterbellevue.org

July 12, 2010

Good evening Mayor Davidson and Members of the Council

We are here this evening to provide you personally with information on the formation of a new city-wide organization focused on securing the long-term future of Bellevue’s neighborhoods as light rail is brought to our city.

Building A Better Bellevue grows out of the long dedication of Bellevue’s neighborhood leaders to always sustain the aesthetic values, the economic strength, and the lifestyle features that provide the foundation of our city’s world-class neighborhoods.

Our city in a park has achieved its status as one of the best places to live in the United States precisely because our civic and political leaders have long shared a belief with our local community leaders that there can be no acceptable compromise when considering what is best for the long term future of all our neighborhoods, as well as our downtown.

In pursuit of this objective our city’s citizens have long supported going the extra mile to achieve what is truly best for our neighborhoods, even though reaching that goal requires sacrifice, hard work, and substantial long-term investments.

There is a widely shared present concern that an externally-controlled government agency – Sound Transit – is not listening to Bellevue’s concerns for our neighborhoods. Rather, Sound Transit, as its financial woes grow, continues to change its plans for bringing light rail through our city, using ever cheaper means to do so, even though what they would build would forever compromise the very things that have made our city great.

Compromising our core values is not the measure by which our city has thrived. Our city has thrived precisely because we have only undertaken that which would be best for our future.

Building A Better Bellevue, and its supporters, will work tirelessly to protect the always quiet, peaceful and safe environment of our neighborhoods, as we have long known them. We will accept no compromise in this regard. And we ask that you, our City political leaders, join fully with us in doing so by making Sound Transit do the right thing for all of Bellevue, not just for our downtown.

We believe you share these perspectives. We look forward to working with the Council, and our city executive staff, as Building A Better Bellevue seeks to sustain all that makes our city great.

We have included here, with our statement of this evening, a copy of the press release announcing our formation, as well as a copy of the letter that has been mailed this past weekend to thousands of Bellevue’s citizens.

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Building a Better Bellevue Has an RSS Feed

Subscribe to the RSS Feed for Building a Better Bellevue.

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