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Bellevue Way is city’s preferred light-rail route

The Bellevue City Council identified Bellevue Way Southeast on Feb. 23 as a preferred alignment for the East Link light-rail line in south Bellevue.

The decision followed months of deliberation and debate between competing interest groups in the area.

Local residents were divided over whether the tracks should run down Bellevue Way Southeast (B3 alternative) or along the BNSF rail corridor parallel to 118th Avenue Southeast (B7 alternative).

Several groups — including the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, Bellevue Downtown Association and multiple neighborhood organizations — offered route recommendations to the Bellevue City Council.

The target areas under consideration were south Bellevue, downtown and the Bel-Red corridor.

The Bellevue City Council settled earlier this month on alignments for the downtown area and Bel-Red, but discussion about the south Bellevue portion dragged on.

The council finally voted 4-3 in favor of a Bellevue Way route with modifications to Sound Transit’s initial proposal.

“We’re very pleased,” said Barbara Shephard, a proponent of the Bellevue Way alignment and a representative for condo owners along 118th Avenue Southeast. “We have a long road ahead of us with Sound Transit and getting all the mitigations and all the facts right.”

After the council made its decision, opponents of the Bellevue Way alignment discussed mounting a campaign to oust Councilmember Patsy Bonincontri during the election this November.

Bonincontri, according to one opponent, was the council’s swing vote.

The seats for Councilmembers Conrad Lee and Don Davidson will also be up for grabs in November. Both supported the BNSF alignment.

Residents of the Surrey Downs neighborhood vowed to take their case for a BNSF alignment directly to Sound Transit.

“We’ll continue on our charge, which is B7,” said Surrey Downs resident Betsy Blackstock.

The Bellevue City Council earlier this month voted unanimously to support a downtown tunnel option that would run along Main Street, 106th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Sixth Street en route to the Bellevue transit center.

Sound Transit board members will identify their own preferred alternative in April, based on input from city councils and other interested parties.

Joshua Hicks can be reached at jhicks@bellevuereporter.com.

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