The Bellevue City Council will revisit its "preferred" rail alignment through South Bellevue tomorrow evening. As we've reported, the council is expected to switch its support from a route through downtown Bellevue to one that would run along I-405, avoiding Bellevue's biggest commercial area and South Bellevue's only park-and-ride.
The seven-member council previously supported the alignment proposed by Sound Transit, which would travel through downtown Bellevue on surface streets, by a vote of 4-3. However, last year's election left the board with a four-member majority opposed to Sound Transit's preferred alignment. Since then, consensus has been building on the council in favor of freshman council member Kevin Wallace's elevated "Vision Line," an elevated route along Burlington Northern right-of-way next to I-405.
Sound Transit previously rejected that route because it had lower ridership than any other South/downtown Bellevue alignment. However, under pressure from a majority of Bellevue council members, the Sound Transit board agreed last month to do new cost and ridership estimates for the "Vision Line."
Wallace, who earlier pressured the council to send a letter to Sound Transit supporting his proposal, appears to have pulled back from his push for an immediate vote on his alignment. He calls tomorrow's meeting "really a continued discussion" of the downtown and south Bellevue alignments. However, he adds, "Obviously, a majority of the council at this point is on record supporting" the so-called "B7" line along the BNSF tracks, which is similar, but not identical, to the Vision Line.
Wallace says his opposition to running rail through downtown (where people actually work and live) "isn't an anti-light rail thing. It's trying to find a solution that ... protects the roads and the neighborhoods from the impact of light rail."
Claudia Balducci, one of the three Bellevue council members who support a more central rail alignment, was just appointed by King County Executive Dow Constantine to the Sound Transit board. Although Balducci (to whom I'll be talking later today) is Bellevue's representative on the board, she technically is appointed as an individual, meaning that she's free to vote against the will of a majority of the council if she disagrees with them.
The board will be voting on the alignment through Bellevue sometime this year; I have a call out to Sound Transit's spokesman Geoff Patrick for specifics.