The Sound Transit Board of Directors July 24 identified a site in Bellevue’s Bel-Red corridor between Bellevue and Redmond as the preferred alternative for a new Link light rail operations and maintenance base. The new facility is needed to store, service and deploy the expanding light rail train fleet as the system expands from 16 to 50 miles by 2023.
The existing light rail fleet will triple in size from 62 to 180 vehicles as Sound Transit opens more than 30 new stations and carries more than 280,000 riders a day by 2030. The current operations and maintenance facility in Seattle has capacity to store and maintain 104 light rail vehicles. As Sound Transit buys additional vehicles in advance of opening voter-approved rail lines to the north, east and south, the existing facility will reach full capacity by 2020.
The preferred alternative is west of 120th Avenue NE adjacent to existing railroad tracks on land that Sound Transit already owns a portion of. The final decision on the site location and the general size and scope of the facility will be determined after the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is complete. Staff will begin work on FEIS this summer and move forward with preliminary engineering and design work on the preferred alternative. The FEIS will be complete in mid 2015 with the final site selected in the fall of 2015.
The board directed staff to design the facility to maximize potential transit oriented development in the vicinity of the new base. Staff will consider side modifications recommended by the Urban Land Institute and seek to incorporate those recommendations which would provide opportunities for additional development potential in the area.
“Today’s decision keeps us on track to open more than 30 miles of light-rail extensions within the next decade,” said Sound Transit Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We are also taking action to advance the vision of the Bel-Red corridor, which is poised to be one of our region’s largest transit-oriented communities.”
Sound Transit narrowed potential locations down to four sites and studied the potential impacts of the sites in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) completed in May. The DEIS examined a number of topics associated with the project including: noise and vibration; land use; visual and economic impacts; social, neighborhood, and social service impacts; and, impacts to parklands, open spaces, and other natural resources.
The DEIS looked at sites in the Lynnwood area between I-5 and 52nd Avenue West and two commercial properties in Bellevue between downtown Bellevue and Redmond. The Bellevue sites are west of 120th Avenue NE adjacent to existing railroad tracks and the other is at 130th Avenue NE and NE 20th Street adjacent to Hwy 520.
The new facility needs to be close to an operating light rail line, roughly rectangular in shape and up to 25 acres in order to store and maintain the additional fleet requirements. The new facility is estimated to cost between $345 million and $415 million.
Sound Transit will open new light rail lines between downtown Seattle and the University of Washington in 2016 along with an extension to South 200th Street in SeaTac. Extensions to the Northgate neighborhood north of Seattle will open in 2021 and extensions to Lynnwood and Bellevue will open in 2023.
Planning and environmental work are also moving forward to establish alignments for extending light rail from South 200th Street to the Kent/Des Moines area by 2023. Following the 2023 opening of all the Sound Transit 2 extensions that regional voters approved in 2008, Link trains are projected to carry more than 280,000 riders each weekday by 2030. The projects are playing a major role in the region’s ongoing recession recovery, creating a projected 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The region’s 50 miles of light rail will serve as a critical element of the region’s overall transportation system, significantly expanding its capacity and attracting riders who won’t compete for increasingly scarce space on congested freeways and roads.