BDA Advocates Position to Council on I-405 South Downtown Access
The City of Bellevue initiated a study early in 2020 to evaluate I-405 access options that provide traffic relief and additional connectivity to the future East Main light rail station set to open in 2023. BDA Transportation Committee members began closely tracking the study last fall when the options narrowed to five alternatives. The BDA Board adopted a committee recommendation in March to advocate preferences for two alternatives.
A letter sent to Bellevue City Council voiced the BDA's preferences for 1) the Lake Hills Connector with southbound onramp and 2) the SE 6th Street extension with southbound onramp. BDA members concluded these two alternatives improve mobility with the best cost to benefit outcomes; however, both are very different nor perfect solutions. To help guide Council selection, the letter summarizes the BDA's rationale and provides conditional language about whether SE 6th Street extension is a viable option.
The Lake Hills Connector with southbound onramp improves travel times and capacity with fewer property and environmental impacts. This option is also less expensive and avoids complications with existing Comprehensive Plan and land use policies. However, it lacks the added connectivity over I-405 and brings less benefit to future trips in the network.
The SE 6th Street Extension with southbound onramp adds east-west multimodal connectivity and greater mobility benefits. Yet, the study also shows more negative property, environmental and access impacts with a higher overall project cost. This option also prompts important questions about Comprehensive Plan consistency and delays to East Main and other critical planning efforts.
SE 6th Street Extension Endorsement Caveat
The study shows the SE 6th Street extension with southbound onramp yields better numbers and benefits future urban growth with an additional multimodal connection. It is also the heavier lift with greater risk at a higher cost. Specifically, it has the potential to delay East Main Land Use Code adoption. BDA believes any alternative selected should not delay other planning initiatives and transportation projects critical to supporting growth. A BDA endorsement of this alternative is contingent on adoption of the East Main Land Use Code by fall this year.
Why not the other three alternatives?
- NE 2nd Street extension does not add ramp access to I-405.
- SE 6th Street extension with inside ramp is too costly compared to the added benefit.
- No build option is a baseline for study purposes; does not support growth.
BDA communication to Council also stressed the importance of completing this work to provide the certainty necessary for advancing other critical City initiatives dependent on a selected alternative. Once an I-405 access is selected, the East Main rezone heads toward the final stage of the Land Use Code Amendment adoption, an outcome that supports increased density around the future light rail station. Moving on from the East Main rezone will create stakeholder bandwidth to tackle other major land use priorities such as the Grand Connection, Wilburton, Bel-Red, mobility project and housing strategies.
City Council and staff are applauded for taking the initiative to conduct this study and reach a decision early this year. It was a proactive move that kept Bellevue's urban growth planning in motion.
Tune into Bellevue TV Live on April 5 at 6pm to watch Council's deliberation and selection of an alternative.