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Bellevue Reporter: Supporters of Wallace Rail Alignment Disappointed by Study Results

By Erica C. Barnett May 18, 2011

We weren't able to make it out to Monday's big Bellevue City Council meeting, where council members got their first public look at a $670,000 study of the council majority's preferred light-rail alignment through South Bellevue, but the Bellevue Reporter was on the scene. They report that the study found the council's preferred route was a "'feasible alternative' to Sound Transit's original B7 route, but may cost $11 million more, and could exceed the cost of Sound Transit's option by as much as $140 million."

The council’s preferred line differs from Sound Transit's preferred alternative in that it would run across the Mercer Slough wetland preserve and in the abandoned Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad right-of-way alongside I-405, bypassing downtown Bellevue as well as the existing South Bellevue Park-and-Ride.  A Sound Transit study found that that alignment had the lowest ridership, served the fewest businesses, and cost the most of any potential alignment.

The Reporter writes:
In the report, much of the extra cost comes as the result of the route running through the Red Lion and Sheraton sites. It could require taking both of those properties. But, there is potential for savings, as much as $125 million if all things break correctly, and the route eliminates a station at East Main Street, and some savings can be found in the Red Lion and Sheraton sites.

Council members, and the public, were mixed in their reviews of the study, generally interpreting the study in ways that supported their positions.

Council Member Kevin Wallace, one of the driving forces behind the study, called it "bittersweet." He was excited about lowering the cost of the route up until it met the two hotels, but was caught off guard by the additional expenses of the route, further north in what is called the C section.

Wallace is under investigation because he failed to disclose to his fellow council members the fact that his company, Wallace Properties, signed an agreement to give the short-line rail company GNP Railway exclusive use of an abandoned rail right-of-way along the B7 alignment, which Wallace supports. The dealt could have benefited Wallace financially because his company  owns numerous properties along the route, and because Sound Transit could have been forced to pay GNP for improvements to and use of its right-of-way.
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