Friday, April 26, 2013

Sound Transit Board approves cost-saving refinements to East Link alignment

In Washington state, the Sound Transit Board has unanimously approved refinements to the alignment for the East Link light-rail extension in Bellvue. The city previously approved the cost-savings plan, as reported by RT&S on April 24, 2013.

The changes will support the partnership to construct a tunnel in downtown Bellevue by reducing costs by an estimated $30 million to $53 million while maintaining fast, reliable and convenient service for riders.

"Today's action brings certainty to the East Link project and enables us to move the entire alignment into the final design process," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "By working together in a spirit of collaboration and compromise we have created a major win for riders and city of Bellevue taxpayers and can move forward toward the 2023 opening."

The changes include a fully at-grade alignment along 112th Avenue Southeast south of downtown. As the route moves north from South Bellevue Way and turns east onto 112th Avenue Southeast, it will pass beneath a raised section of 112th at Southeast 15th Street to reach the west side of the roadway. A street-level crossing of Southeast Fourth Street will allow only emergency vehicle access into the Surrey Downs neighborhood at that location. The city of Bellevue had earlier proposed a trench alignment along 112th. The updated alignment is estimated to save $2 million to $4 million.

As previously planned, trains will travel north through downtown Bellevue in a tunnel under a cost-sharing agreement between Sound Transit and the city of Bellevue that shortens travel times while improving the flow of vehicle pedestrian traffic on the surface. The refinements replace a previously planned underground station with a daylight station located slightly further north as the tunnel turns east onto Sixth Avenue and transitions to an elevated alignment in preparation to cross I-405. The change will save an estimated $19 million to $33 million.

Other refinements identified through the process will save an estimated $9 million to $16 million. Sound Transit's work to advance engineering and secure permits will move forward under city of Bellevue land use changes that make the light-arail extension a permitted use.

Sound Transit is working to start construction in 2015 and launch passenger service in 2023. The project is estimated to create more than 20,000 direct, construction-related jobs during the duration of the work and 34,000 to 42,000 indirect jobs as the stimulus spreads throughout the economy.

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