Monday, April 12, 2010

Sound Transit Board to consider East Link route modifications

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The Sound Transit Board's Capital Committee reached consensus on a recommendation to the full Sound Transit Board to modify the East Link preferred alternative alignment. East Link is the 14-mile light rail extension between East King County and Seattle. Stations are planned for Rainier Avenue in Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake in Redmond with service starting in 2020/2021.

The full Sound Transit Board is scheduled to discuss potential modifications to the East Link preferred alternative at its April 22 meeting.

The Capital Committee voiced its support for:

• Advancing two alternatives into preliminary engineering for the downtown Bellevue light rail segment. One alternative is at-grade, the other a tunnel under downtown Bellevue. Capital Committee members noted that although the tunnel option offers faster travel times and higher ridership, its financial feasibility is unclear and uncertain. The committee's support for this alternative is based on the assumption that the City of Bellevue contributes $150 million toward the East Link project. 

• Modifying the preferred alternative so that in addition to serving the South Bellevue Park-and-Ride and running on the east side of Bellevue Way, light rail would continue into downtown Bellevue along 112th Avenue SE, which could save money and reduce ecosystem impacts. Members supported working together with the City of Bellevue and the community to refine the 112th alignment, including as it transitions into downtown Bellevue.

• Performing preliminary engineering on a retained cut option on the Spring District site, located in the Bel-Red Overlake segment, while continuing to explore a public-private partnership with the developer, Wright Runstad.

• Modifying the preferred alternative for the Overlake Village Station moving further north along SR520, which could save money and lead to faster train travel times.

Sound Transit has been working the past several months on reducing the noise from Link light rail trains in Tukwila and the Rainier Valley.  Solar-powered lubricators that periodically dispense a dab of lubricant on some of the curves in the Rainier Valley and Tukwila are reducing the "wheel squeal" noise. All but two of the eight lubricators are in service, with the rest scheduled to be on line shortly.

The agency is also modifying two switch crossings to eliminate the "ka-thunk" sound when trains pass over the switches. That work is taking place at night and weekends to minimize disruption for Link passengers. The switch work should be completed in the next few months.

In another noise reducing measure, Sound Transit has lowered the volume of the bells as trains approach intersections and stations. That volume is now about the same as other light rail lines across the country. The City of Seattle also lowered the decibel level of its crossing bells when trains approach pedestrian crossings.

Sound Transit staff told the Board's Capital Committee that it is continuing to stay in touch with community members along the light rail line on the noise issue and still working on potential solutions, including putting in a temporary noise wall along one section of the elevated tracks in Tukwila.

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