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Originally published Monday, March 1, 2010 at 10:25 PM

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Bellevue drops Mercer Slough light-rail route

In response to concerns expressed by the National Park Service, the Bellevue City Council said Monday night it will drop a proposed East Link light-rail route that would have sliced across Mercer Slough. A divided council also indicated it plans to support a route along Interstate 90 and the BNSF Railway.

Seattle Times Eastside reporter

In response to concerns expressed by the National Park Service, the Bellevue City Council said Monday night it will drop a proposed East Link light-rail route that would have sliced across Mercer Slough.

The National Park Service (NPS), in a February letter, said the recreation experience at the federally funded nature area could be "significantly affected" if light rail ran through it.

A divided council also indicated Monday that it plans to support a route along Interstate 90 and the BNSF Railway.

In the Feb. 9 letter, Michael Linde, leader of partnership programs for the Park Service, wrote that the nature park was funded based on its "unique characteristics and importance as a statewide resource."

"NPS is gravely concerned that the current routing proposal represents the potential to significantly affect the outdoor recreation experience," he wrote.

The proposed Mercer Slough route had been a compromise for council members, some of whom backed a line along Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast and some of whom preferred the I-90 and BNSF line known as B7.

Last year, in a 4-3 vote, the council favored the Bellevue Way line, but since the November elections, which brought in two new council members, supporters of that line are in the minority.

Without the Mercer Slough route, the council is back to B7, and those who like that line said Monday they want the Sound Transit board to hear their position.

Mayor Don Davidson directed the city staff to draft a letter about the change, which the council will consider next week.

"I do think it's important we do have a letter now so Sound Transit and the public sees this council supports B7 as a whole," said Councilmember Jennifer Robertson.

Councilmember Grant Degginger, however, objected to sending a letter now.

"I don't know a lot has changed other than the political environment," he said.

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Councilmember Kevin Wallace said there are still questions about both routes in South Bellevue.

The Sound Transit board, the final arbiter on light-rail routes, already has endorsed a Bellevue Way route, and has completed about 15 percent of the engineering. Transit-board chairman and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said it is too early to predict whether the board would be willing to change its preference.

There is enough time, according to transit spokesman Bruce Gray, but a decision needs to be made in the next couple of months.

Light-rail service to Bellevue is to start in 2020.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com

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