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Sound Transit is taking a $300 million gamble on a new I-405 bus station in Kirkland

As the design progresses for the Northeast 85th station in Kirkland, Sound Transit's own projections claim that only a few hundred people would go to catch the promised buses in 2024.

Sound Transit gambles 300 million dollars where people go to freeway buses on a Kirkland site where no one gets through.

The design progresses for the Northeast 85th station in Kirkland, although the agency's own projections say that only a few hundred people would go there to catch new Interstate 405 buses , to arrive in 2024.

It is the most expensive stop between 11 stations in a corridor of $ 1.1 billion, 37 miles along the eastern side of Lake Washington. A new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, which arrived every 10 minutes during rush hour, was promised by the Sound Transit 3 note measurement.

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" A river with fast transit of buses, from Everett to Bellevue to Renton to SeaTac ", described Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen the project in her state of the city address in February.

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A wave of apartments or office towers can make the station more useful, but the transit board does not need density in ST3 and Kirkland has not changed the destination zones.

growth is on the way. Developers propose a quartet of six-storey buildings with a total of 770 homes, a supermarket and a health club, which now has a Petco store.

Nevertheless, the highway remains isolated enough so that city administrator Kurt Triplett envisages a mini train cable car to commute people for a mile and a 250-foot climb from the center to the highway station. Parking is not in the station plans.

Sound Transit's own models said that the station would initially attract only 300 daily drivers, and less than 1,000 a day in 2040, unless the population and jobs grow.

The high costs are mainly driven by a complete rebuilding of the I-405 intersection, so that busses can quickly drive drivers along new access roads of the center. Consultants this year presented a unique triple junction – with transit and cycle paths on the middle level – which they think is cheaper than rebuilding the huge trefoil knot today.

The construction will guide the work of the Ministry of Transport to widening the I-405 by adding express toll lanes and exit-only lanes from Bellevue to Renton. On the north side, state legislators will consider to issue WSDOT tolls on more lanes to unblock an I-405 bottling nut on Bothell .

The goal is to take I-405 buses to travel from Lynnwood to Bellevue in 42 minutes.

An investment of $ 300 million is comparable to a mile of light rail.

Skeptics such as Kirkland-resident Dan Ryan, a writer for Seattle Transit Blog, wonder whether the money would be better spent on other services, such as faster bus lanes and bus priority signals on routes through the center of Kirkland who go to the University of Washington and Bellevue.

But others believe that future growth is coming and make the investment worthwhile.

"I think people in general have been very supportive," said Kirkland council member Toby Nixon. "People have raised their eyebrows about the costs."

Although Nixon campaigned against the $ 54 billion Sound Transit 3 tax measure in 2016, he is optimistic that Kirkland's future will bring more homes and more jobs.

"That can result in more people driving through the bus fast throughput," he said.

A funicular railway?

Single-family home owners on a mile east have criticized a project with 133 units that add traffic, but closer to the highway, four- to six-story density is already allowed.

Triplett predicts that a decade will pass before 85th high-rise sees for condo towers such as the center of Bellevue or the 18-story, mostly residential tower just presented in Lynnwood .

] But he sees the shorter Rose Hill project with 770 units as a start for more transit-friendly development.

Architectural drawings provide pavements and squares while they choose the future BRT station three blocks away. They also unveil 1311 parking stalls, accessible via a rectangular "autocourt" centered between four apartment buildings – a far cry from zero-parking, transit-dependent units in some neighborhoods of Seattle.

Kirkland considers the site a "transition zone", says Adam Weinstein, Deputy Urban Planning Director, in which people commute in transit and use their car for weekend trips and nightly shopping.

"It will change people's perception of that gait, when a big anchor like that happens," said Triplett. "After the first building has started, people start to imagine another, and developers and homeowners start living."

In the meantime, most people will have to be taken to the station to meet I-405 buses.

the PL3 planning negotiations in 2016, the then board chairman Dow Constantine promised $ 45 million for bus-only lanes, leading to Northeast 85th Station.

But Kirkland is not willing to put out cars from two of the four general – good lanes between the center and the I-405, nor widen a bridge at 85th for bus lanes, which would break the budget .

Ryan thinks that people near the center of Kirkland do not want to take a local bus to the east to I-405, transfer to Sound Transit on the highway, then head south to Bellevue in the middle path.

"I do not see myself doing much," he said.

Kirkland officials have air gondolas discussed operating in the center of Portland and perhaps once ascent to the Simon Fraser University east of Vancouver, BC [19659003] Triplett & # 39; s on the way to a simpler idea: B a cable car .

A chain or cable would pull rail wagons up the 250 foot high slope from Kirkland to I-405, such as the Victoria Peak Tram in Hong Kong or Angels Flight Railway in Los Angeles .

Can someone built in Kirkland for the allocation of the bus lane of $ 45 million? Triplett wants to study that. A funicular railway may need only one pair of tracks plus a small projection halfway where a train downhill can take a train up .

"Basically a bus wagon, every 10 minutes," he said. "They are small enough, it is not that difficult to do them."

It would be easy to add an offshoot path that would enter the campus of Google a bit to the south, he said.

If the cable does not win traction politically, the discussion goes back to whether more east-west buses can get the job done.

Metro & # 39; s long-term plan for 85th prescribes buses every 15 minutes by 2024. A funding source has not yet been identified. In theory, the launch of light rail through Bellevue, Overlake and Redmond will displace some bus routes, making service times available elsewhere on the Eastside.

"We are working with Metro to get a redhead bus from Redmond to the center of Kirkland," said Sound Transit board member John Marchione, the mayor of Redmond. "The more frequent the service, the more riders we get at that station."


Three-level interchange

After ST3 was over, the Sound Transit engineering consultant investigated two dozen options before they completed the exchange at three levels.

There is nothing like life in the US, although some highways change to three levels without bus stations, according to staff from the Federal Highway Administration.

Highway buses would leave the express in the center toll roads to meet passengers on the middle level, and then enter I-405 again at the end of an oval roundabout. Mainline highway traffic would be above, and local east-west traffic would be 85th lower.

Drivers who are on their way to and from the express tolls would share the roundabout with buses on the middle level.

The design of the station would allow construction without interrupting I-405 general traffic. New north and south crossings to construct general toll roads and toll roads would be built on each side of the existing main line – and only then would the old north-south lanes be demolished and the transit oval built in the middle. last exchange would be skinnier than today, which could yield a few hectares for development.

WSDOT officials talk about the safety of roundabouts, but this is a completely new application. Hikers should be careful for drivers who enter or leave I-405 tolls via the roundabout to the marked pedestrian crosswalks.

The design is still in the initial stages, so there is time to investigate safety features, said Bernard van de Kamp, Sound Transit & # 39; s

Frequent service

Riders at Totem Lake, a few kilometers to the north, looking forward to Sound Transit with more frequent buses.

"It would be better for me, during off-peak hours," said commuter Oz Gonzalez. He would wait 10 to 15 minutes for the next bus, instead of 15 to 30 minutes.

And the added stop at 85th would not take a lot of time, compared to the advantage of more frequency, he said.

"From here to the center of Bellevue it is 13 minutes, I can not beat that", he said recently as drivers pulled their brakes in the morning and the car roll peaked at $ 10 on I-405 express tolls.

A better solution, said commuter Vanessa Razo of North Kirkland, would be a train from Totem Lake and point north. As more people flee the high Eastside house prices, the buses fill Lynnwood, long before they reached Kirkland, she predicted.

"I do not know how they will fit people," Razo said.

Kirkland, resident of Downtown Brad Haverstein, a software engineer and "bus nerd", said he appreciates the design of the station. He is ambivalent about the ride uphill to the station, but is happy that the proposal makes footpaths.

"If you are going to build the station, this is the best thing you can do," he said.

Triplett tries to flip the question – the important thing is not how easily residents can leave Kirkland, but how easily employees can get elsewhere, especially to Google on Sixth Street South.

Another criterion is to ask the negative question: "What if you do not add a station in 85th place?" The answer is: there is nowhere for people to take the bus in a 5 mile long gap between Totem Lake and the center of Bellevue.

"You must have a stop to serve Kirkland, I do not know where you would have it otherwise," said board member David Baker, Mayor of Kenmore.

Marchione, the mayor of Redmond, predicts that the growth will come, but only when the station becomes reality in six years.

Like many major transport projects, the Northeast 85th station is a blessing or boondoggle, depending on how future communities use what it offers.

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