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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 5, 2009 at 4:00 PM

East-west transportation debates

Elevated line best for Bellevue

Editor, The Times:

Mike Lindblom’s article in Monday’s Times [“Bellevue wants a tunnel; Microsoft says not so fast,” page one, May 4] failed to identify the clearly preferred route through downtown Bellevue: Alternative C7E, an elevated line running alongside 112th Avenue Northeast from approximately Main Street to an I-405 overpass at the north edge of Overlake Hospital Medical Center.

Not only is this route/configuration cheaper –the $500-600 million estimated cost is less than half of either of the tunnel options — but there is minimal impact on total East Link ridership. And there would be no east/west traffic impacts during operation.

Although Sound Transit’s proposed elevated design would impact a number of businesses along the route, these impacts can be minimized by placing the support piers on the east side of the 112th Avenue Northeast roadway. A variation of this alternative would be to run the line on the surface, which would further reduce the cost, but with the imposition of some interference to east/west traffic during operation.

Clearly, an elevated or surface configuration along 112th Avenue Northeast is an attractive option to the costly tunnels proposed by some Bellevue City Council members.

— David F. Plummer, Bellevue

Express-lane closure only the beginning

Everyone who is upset about the traffic snarl caused by the three-week closure of the I-90 express lanes [“HOV lanes closing on I-90 bridge,” NWMonday, May 4] should think about the fact that they will be closed to all traffic for a much longer time while being converted to light rail.

And even when that is finished, we don’t really know how many more light-rail passengers will be accommodated in those lanes than could be accommodated by express bus routes with special on/off ramps in conjunction with high-occupancy vehicles. So brace yourselves, Eastsiders.

— Gary Ritzman, Mercer Island

High-capacity light rail will ease traffic

In his column on the Eastside light rail [“Eastside light-raid options should focus on mobility,” Opinion, guest commentary, May 5], Michael Ennis says using the I-90 floating bridge for the route has two big challenges.

One is loss of the HOV lanes, reducing the capacity of the bridge for peak-direction buses and automobiles. If the rail system is doing its job, which is to be the high-capacity link, this will not be a big problem.

Light rail should attract a considerable percentage of people now using cars to reach major employment centers both in Seattle and the Eastside. Most buses should act as feeders to the rail line rather than running back and forth across the bridge. Sound Transit and King County Metro must work together as a system, particularly on this link. The rail line will have a much higher capacity than the two highway lanes it will replace, and it will be a two-way facility able to serve today’s large reverse-direction flows.

Ennis is also concerned about stray electrical current from the rails, which might cause damage to steel components of the bridge. This really is a paper tiger because means to control such damage exist and are routinely employed on modern light-rail lines. Sound Transit has also cut the current in half by doubling the voltage to 1500V, compared to the 750V used on most light-rail lines and the Seattle Streetcar. Rubber components in the rail mountings will both reduce vibrations transmitted to the bridge and electrically insulate the rails from it.

All the stakeholders must work together to create a good design for this long-overdue rail connection between Seattle and the Eastside. It will be very expensive and construction will be seriously disruptive, as it always is. The existing bridge is an opportunity to reduce the cost and risk involved in this project.

— John Aurelius, Indianola

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