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Originally published July 20, 2010 at 7:29 PM | Page modified July 20, 2010 at 7:29 PM

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Bellevue council sticks with light-rail route Sound Transit opposes

A divided Bellevue City Council voted this week to continue to support a light-rail route that the Sound Transit board bypassed months ago, and the city's mayor plans to restate Bellevue's position with the Sound Transit board on Thursday.

Seattle Times Eastside reporter

A divided Bellevue City Council voted this week to continue to support a light-rail route that the Sound Transit board bypassed months ago, and the city's mayor plans to restate Bellevue's position with the Sound Transit board on Thursday.

The transit board had asked the council to select one of six potential light-rail routes that would run near 112th Avenue Southeast before swinging toward downtown Bellevue. The council declined to consider any of those options. Instead, it voted 4-3 to send a letter to clarify that the majority of the council wants a light-rail route that would run along Interstate 90, then head north along the BNSF Railway line adjacent to the Mercer Slough neighborhood.

"As far as I'm concerned, if Sound Transit wants to make the call [on 112th], they can make the call," said Mayor Don Davidson, who will be presenting the city's position to the transit board Thursday at a regular meeting. "I've got citizens to represent."

The council endorsed the route along I-90 and the BNSF line earlier this year, but the board went against the council's recommendation and instead chose a light-rail path along Bellevue Way Southeast and 112th.

After further engineering and study, the transit board's final decision on routes for East Link, scheduled to open in 2021, should come next year.

The council's favored route is too expensive if Bellevue also wants a tunnel downtown, said Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray.

"We're at 112th because we worked very closely with the city on affording a tunnel downtown," he said. "That's sort of the crux of why we're at where we are today."

Bellevue Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who also serves on the transit board, was one of three City Council members who voted against sending the letter.

The council sacrificed a moment to tell Sound Transit what works best for the city on the 112th route, she said.

Balducci said the discussion also ignored the lower ridership and increased costs that she said would come with the council's favored route.

Costs of a Mercer Slough route could be $100 million more than the route along 112th, Balducci said.

"I just think it's not a credible decision process when ignoring these major issues in talking about a major transit line," Balducci said.

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Meanwhile, some condo owners on the west side of 112th Avenue Southeast said they would rather sell their property to the transit agency so the agency could build a route along the west side of the street than cope with the noise and vibrations from trains in the center or on the east side of 112th.

The owners are concerned about a drop in property values, said Scott Rodgers, president of the board for the Carriage Place Condominiums Homeowners Association.

"We really think the best thing you can possibly do is buy out the homeowners that are here," Rodgers said. "We're just too close."

Rodgers has written confirmation from 18 of 24 owners that they back the option to sell.

An adjacent condo association, Carriage Hills, also said in a letter to the city that 82 percent of its 17 homeowners prefer a light-rail route along the west side.

Rodgers said he prefers a route that would cross I-90 as the best possible option, but Sound Transit has been consistent in its position that it was not an option.

But his group is ready to sell because "we didn't see the point of beating a dead horse," he said.

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

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