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Updated Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 12:31 PM

Light-rail-yard sites narrowed to three in Bellevue, Lynnwood

By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times staff reporter

Two proposed Bellevue sites for a light-rail maintenance yard have been dropped from further consideration and a third location could be reconfigured to allow more high-density development near a future station.

Sound Transit's latest idea — shifting one site slightly to the west — will be presented Thursday to the agency's capital committee.

By buying additional land west of the former BNSF Railway line, Sound Transit could move that Bel-Red Corridor site farther from the future 120th Avenue Northeast station and make more land available for high-density development.

Bellevue officials have been concerned that a rail yard there would undermine the city's and Sound Transit's shared goal of locating mid- to high-rise homes and offices around the future station.

The capital committee last month dropped two of the five original sites under study for the $228 million project: the Bellevue Fred Meyer store and other retailers at 148th Avenue Northeast, and a group of largely industrial properties next to the future 130th Avenue Northeast rail station in Bellevue.

Three sites are still under consideration, two in Bellevue's Bel-Red Corridor and one at 52nd Avenue West and 208th Street Southwest in Lynnwood.

Bellevue officials have said they believe the 120th Avenue location is Sound Transit's preferred site because the agency has described it as flat, affordable, close to the rail line and "the highest performing site for systemwide operations."

Michael Williams, Sound Transit's light-rail project-development director, said the agency isn't favoring one site over the others at this point.

"We're just at the start of an environmental process that's going to take another year," Williams said. "There's pros and cons about all the sites."

Williams said the transit agency has taken a fresh look at 21 sites either previously studied or recently suggested by citizens and public officials, and concluded that only the five previously identified sites in Bellevue and Lynnwood would meet its need to store and service 80 rail cars each night for an expanding rail system.

Now the number of sites being considered is down to three.

Sound Transit's existing maintenance and storage yard south of downtown Seattle, in the Sodo area, can't handle the number of cars that will operate on lines scheduled to reach Lynnwood and Redmond's Overlake area in 2023.

If voters in the future authorize expansion of the system to Everett, downtown Redmond and Tacoma, a third facility would be needed in the east or north, according to Sound Transit.

Staff now believes mixed-use buildings could be built on the eastern portion of the former International Paper site on 120th Avenue, if some operations were moved to the west and some buildings were located above light-rail employee parking.

The Bellevue and Lynnwood city councils both oppose plans to put a rail yard in their city. The Lynnwood site is on a property the Edmonds School District purchased for a combined headquarters, transportation and maintenance facility.

The other remaining Bellevue location, on the south side of Highway 520, would displace offices on 10 lots, industrial uses on four, retail on one, and a car lot.

Some Bellevue City Council members were angry when they learned this summer that Sound Transit didn't tell them during several months of discussions on the light-rail route last year that there was a growing likelihood a large rail yard would be built in Bellevue or Lynnwood.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com


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