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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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