Sound Transit OKs changes to Bellevue's light-rail extension

SEATTLE -- The Sound Transit Board unanimously approved changes to Bellevue’s East Link light-rail extension Thursday.

The changes will involve construction of a tunnel in downtown Bellevue that will reduce costs by an estimated $30 million to $53 million while maintaining fast, reliable and convenient service for riders, Sound Transit said in a news release.

“Today’s action brings certainty to the East Link project and enables us to move the entire alignment into the final design process,” said Sound Transit Board Chairwoman and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “By working together in a spirit of collaboration and compromise, we have created a major win for riders and City of Bellevue taxpayers and can move forward toward the 2023 opening.”

“On both sides of Lake Washington, this project will change people's lives by cutting through congestion with fast and reliable light rail. Link will also help us attract more high-quality jobs,” said Sound Transit Board and Bellevue City Councilwoman Claudia Balducci. “Today's decision gives us the final route we need to finish design work and start construction.”

The changes were endorsed 6-0 by the Bellevue City Council on Monday.

“We are pleased with the Sound Transit Board’s decision today to accept the City Council’s cost-savings recommendations on how to bring East Link into Bellevue,” said Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee.

Sound Transit is working to start construction in 2015 and launch passenger service in 2023.  Sound Transit said the project is estimated to create more than 20,000 direct, construction-related jobs over the duration of the work and 34,000 to 42,000 indirect jobs.

East Link documents including maps of the alignment are available at