Bellevue’s Light Rail Tunnel

Bellevue Light Rail Tunnel Video

Construction has been under way for months on the south portal site for the tunnel under downtown Bellevue. Part of the Sound Transit East Link extension, the tunnel will host light rail service in Bellevue and run between the future transit stations at East Main and Downtown Bellevue. What you might not know . . .

  • The tunnel will be approximately one third of a mile long when completed and will run between the East Main and Downtown stations, mostly under 110th Avenue NE
  • Excavation work should be complete in about two years followed by another year of construction to complete the tunnel interior
  • Crews are excavating at the south portal site at 112th Avenue SE and Main Street. Construction is on pace to dig 3 to 4 feet of tunnel a day. The north portal will surface at the light rail station at NE 6th Street near the current Bellevue Transit Center
  • The completed tunnel will be nearly 28 feet tall and run 30-60 feet below ground
  • The budget for the tunnel is $121.4 million
  • Instead of a tunnel boring machine, this tunnel is being built using the sequential excavation method (SEM). SEM uses an excavator and cutting equipment to take out soil. As soil is removed, lattice girders are installed and then pressurized concrete, called shotcrete, is sprayed onto the tunnel sides, ceiling and floor. This method, vs a tunnel boring machine, should minimize disruption to surface streets, homes and businesses.

East Link is scheduled to open in 2023 and is part of the 14 mile, 10 station light rail extension. When open a trip from downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue will take about 20 minuted. The next extension is scheduled to open the following year linking stations to Redmond.

2023 will be here sooner than we expect. Access to light rail is going to be a game changer downtown, adding appeal, convenience, prestige and value to downtown Bellevue’s business and residential communities.


S. Bellevue Park & Ride Closure

Sound Transit light railThe south Bellevue Park-and-Ride will be closing  for East Link light rail construction. The site will be used to stage equipment and materials for construction of the light rail track, station and a new 1,500 stall parking garage. The Bellevue park & ride could close as early as January 2017 and will remain closed for up to five years, though Sound Transit and the contractor hope to explore opportunities to reopen the park & ride sooner if possible.

To serve commuters during this closure Sound Transit has opened several new park & ride locations and expanded other lots. Bus routes serving the new park-and-ride lots will connect with many of the same routes and destinations as those currently served at the South Bellevue Location.

No doubt this is going to be inconvenient, but the outcome  –  better and faster transit options for our region  –  will be worth the wait. Plan ahead to deal with the long term closures of both the South Bellevue and Overlake park & ride facilities. Sound Transit and King County Metro have partnered to help commuters find transportation options and earn rewards for taxi, Uber and Lyft discounts, Orca cards, transit vouchers and more.

Visit for an interactive map showing the new park & ride locations. Learn about eligibility to earn perks and rewards at (click on the “resources” tab)


Plan Ahead for Traffic Revisions

detour-signWith so many buildings under construction and, along with staging and construction of the light rail system, there are going to be temporary and long term delays and detours in and around downtown Bellevue. Here are the current long term detours to watch for in the coming months.

  • 120th Avenue between Bel-Red Road (NE 12th Street) and Northup Way (NE 20th Street) will be closed through April 2017 for construction of a new light rail bridge.
  • 110th Avenue NE from Main Street and 112th Avenue SE to 110th Avenue NE/NE 6th Street will have ongoing closures through late 2016 for installation of light rail tunnel monitoring equipment.
  • NE 2nd Place from 110th  Avenue NE to 111th  Avenue NE will be closed through 2018 for use as a staging area for Sound Transit

There will likely be other occasional closures in the coming months, so be patient and flexible with your route planning and timing – trips could take a few minutes longer than expected.


Link Light Rail & Property Values

Sound Transit light railWhether you supported or opposed the construction of the Eastside’s light rail system, light rail is coming to Bellevue. Residents in Seattle are discovering the advantages and convenience of being connected from downtown Seattle to SeaTac, Capitol Hill to the UW.

As is the case in other parts of the country where light rail has existed for years (Portland, Boston, Chicago, NYC, Washington, DC to name a few), property values benefit from being located near a rail station. In major metropolitan areas on the East coast and in the Midwest, homes within walking distance of a rail stations are marketed as being more desirable, having more value and command higher prices.

In Seattle homes and condos in neighborhoods located near the light rail stations have seen an increase in median prices. Buyers are willing to pay more for the convenience of living close to transit. In Bellevue, where completion of the light rail system and stations is still several years away, homes close to proposed light rail stations are in high demand and being located near a station is definitely a marketing tool and a positive selling feature. While increased bus service is also needed, unlike buses, which get stuck in the same traffic you’re sitting in on I-90 during rush hour, light rail has a clear path station-to-station, significantly reducing commute time.

Take a look at the link below for a video, courtesy of Sound Transit, which gives you a look at the Eastside’s light rail system and station locations.



The Link Between Infrastructure and Housing

At this week’s Master Builders Association Housing Summit at Meydenbauer Center, the topic of the summit focused on how the rapid growth in the Puget Sound region affects transportation, housing and housing affordability.

Over 250,000 jobs have been added in the four-county region over the past five years significantly increasing traffic delays. (The Seattle area was recently ranked as the 7th worst in the nation.) With the economy continuing to grow, fewer people leaving, more people moving to the area and commute times continuing to increase, the connection between transportation and housing has never been more critical. Local, state and federal infrastructure improvements are underway, with more planned for the future, but these improvements, for the most part, maintain or upgrade existing highway systems. With the area’s unique and restrictive geography of water, mountains and more water, highway expansion opportunities are limited. Light rail, successful and expanding in Seattle and scheduled to arrive on the Eastside in 2023, will be instrumental in reducing congestion and commute times.

Many buyers are willing to pay a premium to live near work, reducing or eliminating commute issues, but not everyone wants an urban lifestyle or can afford to live in the city. “Drive until you can afford to buy” opens options to quality, affordable suburban housing near great schools and amenities, but commuting from those suburbs to employment centers adds to the traffic congestion and commute frustration. With no end in sight to the area’s economic and job growth, creating housing supply near job centers, building more affordable neighborhoods and improving infrastructure and mass transit will be key to maintaining the area’s quality of life. Perhaps re-evaluating the Growth Management Act and land use regulations could provide solutions to the region’s buildable land shortage, housing and transportation issues.

Mass transit should be a regional issue, not just one city or county’s problem. Whether you drive to work, take the bus or light rail, traffic congestion issues impact your life. This is a great place to live, but without a regional effort to improve transportation and better connect our cities, the Puget Sound region could risk losing its competitive edge. If employees can’t secure affordable housing, get to work within a reasonable amount of time and maintain a quality of life, employers may leave or choose other states to relocate or grow their business.