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Advocacy in Action: Council Moves Forward with Grand Connection I-405 Lid Option

November 30, 2018 - by Matt Jack, BDA Policy Manager

Category What's Happening

The Bellevue City Council unanimously agreed to pursue the Grand Connection I-405 lid crossing alternative for future evaluation and design. The lid was one of three alternatives identified in the Council-adopted Grand Connection Framework Plan: Sequence Two released earlier this year. Selecting the lid alternative will jumpstart the next phase of design refinement and studies that'll inform the final concept for implementation. Upcoming work in this next phase also includes cost estimates, work with WSDOT, and continued outreach to stakeholders. 

BDA Recommendations

The BDA issued a letter to City Council stating a preference for the lid alternative with additional factors to be considered. The Board-approved message was developed over a series of BDA Land Use & Livability Committee meetings throughout the past year. For over two years, the BDA Land Use & Livability Committee has been tracking the Grand Connection visioning process with regular meetings with City Staff, forward-thinking discussions about design and implementation, and stakeholder workshops with the City's design and financial consultants. 

The key points communicated to Council included:

  • We hold a preference for Alternative 3, noting it could achieve three key benefits: 1) create new open space with a lid over I-405; 2) support, not preclude, future development capacity; 3) possibly result in lower land acquisition costs for the City. Alternative 3 presents a bolder and more attractive project. However, this support is not “at any cost.” Funding analysis is needed to clarify the magnitude and cost/benefit tradeoffs. The cost consideration should also factor longer-term maintenance requirements. 
  • The Grand Connection is a priority and significant opportunity. The vision and design should be feasible and achievable within a reasonable amount of time. We support examining a phased approach to accomplishing the larger vision, one that allows incremental crossing improvements based on funding availability and development plans. The City should also initiate and fund improvements and activation along the Grand Connection corridor prior to the crossing’s completion. These critical, incremental steps will further support momentum for the crossing project.  
  • The project must support future property development on both sides of I-405. Design the Grand Connection crossing with consideration given to the adjacent properties, the transitional connections, and the impact the project will have on livability.
  • Communication will be key between the City and property owners to ensure functional and attractive transitions between public and private spaces. The Grand Connection project should not create additional delay for future development. 
  • Preliminary land values used for cost estimates are likely understated by a large degree. Updating the land acquisition costs based on current and projected values, with future changes in Wilburton, could level the estimates for the three alternatives.
  • Future planning should include an economic analysis to measure project costs alongside potential future revenue streams. For example, measure the costs of Alternatives 1 and 2 with parks envisioned on the eastside of I-405 to Alternative 3’s economic benefits of future development on both sides of I-405. 
  • Prioritize the pedestrian and non-motorized experience around safety, comfort, and enjoyment.
  • Address impacts of elevation and grade changes. The relationship between 112 Ave NE and the Grand Connection needs special attention and consideration for a design that will allow future development to leverage foot traffic on the corridor. 
  • Work closely with WSDOT to seek the State’s approval, cooperation and feedback. Future Grand Connection crossing plans must not preclude the I-405 Master Plan, and it should minimize impacts to I-405 during construction.
  • Evaluate and communicate available or potential funding mechanisms to build the crossing; including eligibility for federal, state, and local matching. LIDs (local improvement districts) as a funding mechanism are disfavored by Downtown property owners.
  • Future design refinements should address anticipated travel and parking demand generated by the Grand Connection and I-405 crossing as a popular public amenity.

Read the full letter 

About the Grand Connection

The Grand Connection is the ambitions plan to connect Meydenbauer Bay through Downtown Bellevue and Wilburton Commercial Area to the future Eastside Rail Corridor with a non-motorized corridor. The opportunity exists to create unique themes and environments along each segment of the Grand Connection, complementing existing and future uses.

Next Steps for the Grand Connection

Design refinements for the I-405 Grand Connection crossing will start in Q1 2019 and carry over into 2020. The design work will coincide with the Wilburton rezone work that is also expected to go into 2020.