By 2024, commuters on the Eastside will enjoy a new era of fast, reliable transportation on light rail, bus rapid transit, and many local street improvements. But first comes what one leader called an inevitable “five or six years of pain” from construction of those projects. More than 90 regional leaders met May 5 in Bellevue to share their concerns and address the challenge of mitigating the impacts on their shared constituencies.
Metropolitan King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci convened the Eastside Transportation Forum at Meydenbauer Center to share a list of 21 projects that will impact transportation on the Eastside, ranging from:
- the extension of Sound Transit’ light rail via East Link to Bellevue and Redmond and 11 stations for new ST Express routes on I-405 and SR-522;
- the Washington Department of Transportation’s I-405 improvements and Express Toll Lanes and completion of the SR 520 “Rest of the West” construction;
- the integration of King County Metro service to better connect with East Link under our Metro Connects long-term vision, along with adding four new RapidRide lines and improving an existing one, restructuring service to connect more riders crossing SR-520 to light rail, and adding Park and Ride lots; and
- urban developments and street improvements in Kirkland, Medina, and Bothell, to name just a few.
“All of these projects will provide new and better transportation options,” said Councilmember Balducci, “but we will have to endure a period of construction to get to the point where our residents will enjoy the benefits. The next 5 to 6 years will present a uniquely challenging time for mobility on the Eastside, and indeed throughout King County.”
The top executives of WashDOT, Sound Transit, and King County Metro all presented their respective plans, followed by lively small group discussions. Among the public benefits to emerge was one to ensure that agencies and cities talk to each other in advance of construction to make sure that underground utilities get moved only once, as Sound Transit did to reconfigure the Redmond Link station to avoid tearing up a major water utility only recently installed by the city. City leaders also asked what can be done to prevent drivers using new GPS web apps like Waze to cut through their side streets, small roads and neighborhoods in order to avoid congestion on arterials.
Leaders agreed to continue to work together to address many of these issues and will be following up with next steps. You can watch the entire forum online thanks to King County TV.