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Light rail and SR-99 viaduct final EIS reports completed

The upcoming extension of light rail to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond, and the replacement of the Alaskan Way viaduct along the Seattle waterfront, aka Highway 99, have both reached a major milestone with the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) for each.

The Final EIS For the Sound Transit East Link project documents how it will connect the region’s largest population and employment centers with frequent and reliable mass transit service, as well as project impacts and required mitigation. The publication positions the Sound Transit Board to select an East Link route and stations on July 28 or thereafter.

After the route and stations are selected and Sound Transit receives Federal Transit Administration approval through a Record of Decision, the project will move into final design. Sound Transit is expected to start construction of East Link in 2015 or 2016 and launch passenger service in 2022 or 2023.

By 2030 the East Link project is forecasted to move up to 50,000 riders each weekday.

When complete, the East Link will provide new transportation capacity to the I-90 corridor. Increases in the length and frequency of trains over time offer the capacity to carry from 9,000 to 12,000 people per hour in each direction, which would more than double the person-carrying capacity of I-90 and is roughly equivalent to seven to 10 freeway lanes of vehicle traffic.

The Final EIS reflects Sound Transit’s public outreach program. Over the last five years, Sound Transit held 28 open houses, workshops and hearings, and attended 249 meetings with local groups, property owners and residents. Sound Transit reviewed 1,887 comments during the formal environmental review process.

After crossing Lake Washington and Mercer Island in the center lanes of I-90, the preferred alternative moves north along Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue. In downtown Bellevue, the board identified two preferred alternatives: a surface alignment that is consistent with the funding voters approved in November 2008, as well as a tunnel advocated by the City of Bellevue. The preferred tunnel alternative exceeds the East Link finance plan by approximately $310 million (in present dollars); therefore, the City of Bellevue must assist in the funding for this alternative to be selected.

The document is available at public libraries or on line at www.soundtransit.corg.

In a press release issued the same day as Sound Transit, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and City of Seattle  announced the release of  the State Route 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project’s final environmental impact statement (EIS).

The Alaskan Way Viaduct SR-99 replacement’s Final EIS document is the culmination of 10 years of technical analysis, and public, agency and tribal review.

“The final EIS represents countless hours of debate, town halls, public outreach and technical review,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “Completing this review process wasn’t a sprint; it was a marathon.”

The final EIS examines the potential environmental effects of viaduct replacement alternatives, including a bored tunnel, and builds on the analysis included in the 2004 draft EIS, the 2006 supplemental draft EIS and the 2010 supplemental draft EIS. The document compares the effects of all three build alternatives (bored tunnel, cut-and-cover tunnel and an elevated structure) and explains why a bored tunnel is the preferred alternative.

To view the report, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/Viaduct.

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