Bellevue will get more land for development around a Sound Transit maintenance yard and save about $60 million in costs for a downtown tunnel under a proposed agreement to go forward with light rail on the Eastside.
Bellevue officials accused Sound Transit of betrayal and bad faith last summer when the transit agency said its light-rail maintenance yard would be built near the city’s planned $2.3 billion Spring District development — after the city had pledged $160 million toward the East Link line.
This week, after months of negotiations, Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci pronounced a revised agreement with Sound Transit, “Lemonade with sweetener,” the city’s effort to make the best of a decision it strongly opposed.
The negotiated deal will shrink the size of the maintenance yard to add 1.6 million square feet of potential commercial and residential development space on the perimeter of the property. It will also reduce the city’s payment — its share of the costs to build a downtown tunnel — by $60 million.
And, Balducci said, the agreement has strong protections for Bellevue neighborhoods along the route through the city to minimize noise and traffic impacts during construction.
Public hearing on proposed Bellevue- Sound Transit light-rail agreement
6:30 p.m. MondayCouncil chambers, Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Ave. N.E.
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Attn: Bellevue City Council, P.O. Box 90012, Bellevue, WA, 98009.
“We’ve set a template for how communities can partner with Sound Transit to meet their own goals,” Balducci said.
The agreement is now subject to approval by the Bellevue City Council, which will hold a public hearing Monday and a likely vote on the deal April 20. The Sound Transit Board will consider the agreement April 23.
Sound Transit officials also pointed to wins in the negotiations, foremost a finalized plan that allows it to begin building the Eastside light-rail corridor next year, with a target of 2023 to begin passenger service.
“We’ve locked in the scope. We know what we’re building,” said Bruce Gray, a spokesman for Sound Transit.
As part of the deal, Sound Transit will add bike and pedestrian access along the corridor including a connection between the Eastside Rail Corridor in Bellevue with the Cross Kirkland Corridor. Additionally, the agency will improve or add some Bellevue parks including restoration of a wetland in Mercer Slough.
The city’s $100 million contribution to the downtown tunnel will come mostly in the form of donated property, right-of-way access and the relocation of utilities.
The biggest gain for the city in the agreement is a smaller footprint for the maintenance yard down to 20 acres from the original 23. The city’s vision for the Bel-Red corridor and Spring District is a high-density neighborhood with a mix of office, retail and residential space near the 120th Avenue Northeast light-rail station.
The city is also working with King County to realign its current Metro bus facility, across the planned maintenance yard. That could allow Bellevue to move the road south and add another 400,000 square feet of potential development land on the edge of the yard.
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“If we could add two more parcels, it would bring the total of developable land around the maintenance yard to 2 million square feet,” said Balducci. The most valuable land, within a quarter mile walk radius of the station, is where we’d like to see development.”
Transit advocates also worked to increase the area around the maintenance yard available for development. Hilary Franz, executive director of Futurewise, said to maximize the region’s investment in light rail, it’s important to locate homes, work and schools near transit.
“Our land around stations is a precious commodity,” said Franz, who served on a stakeholder group convened by Sound Transit to work through some of the opposition.
Sound Transit has also agreed to transfer a parking lot around the 130th Avenue Station to the city after construction. Balducci said the city would like to build mixed-rate housing on the site.
Councilmember Kevin Wallace, who joined with Balducci in negotiations with Sound Transit, said the city pressed for unprecedented mitigation for the impacts of the project on the city and its neighborhoods. But he said he was still unhappy with the route through the city and the location of the maintenance yard.
“We don’t have the luxury of telling them (Sound Transit) no. We’ve told them how to make it better,” he said.