SR 522/NE 145th Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) serves growing north Lake Washington communities. Photo courtesy of Sound Transit

SR 522/NE 145th Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) serves growing north Lake Washington communities. Photo courtesy of Sound Transit

Bothell expresses concerns with Bus Rapid Transit plans

City doesn’t like Sound Transit’s interim solution for SR 522/I-405 connection.

At its last two meetings in December 2018, the Bothell City Council discussed how to move forward with Sound Transit on planning for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on State Routes 522/523 and Interstate 405.

The city sent a letter to the Sound Transit board on Dec. 19, 2018 noting its disappointment “in the manner in which the BRT projects through Bothell have been developed thus far.”

The BRT system, approved by voters in 2016 as part of ST3, is set to open in 2024. It will have 11 stations and run for 37 miles on I-405, and will have nine stations and cover eight miles on SR 522 and Northeast 145th Street, with additional parking in Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Bothell and an expanded transit center at the University of Washington Bothell.

Buses will run as often as every 10 minutes, with the SR 522/Northeast 145th Street BRT service connecting to Link light rail in Shoreline and I-405 BRT connecting to light rail in Lynnwood, Bellevue and Tukwila. BRT also includes a new bus maintenance base in Bothell.

Both lines will serve residents and commuters in Bothell, but the problem for Sound Transit and the city is how the two will connect.

“I think the 522, no matter how it looks, will be served very well because it’s a 10-minute headway and it’s going to go at least to campus,” Bothell’s public works capital division manager Steve Morikawa told the council on Dec. 18, 2018. “The 405 is the one we’re really working hard at. Ideally, downtown Bothell would be in the middle of I-405, but it’s just not.”

The representative project from ST3 placed the transfer on Northeast 195th Street, which may work as an interim solution until the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) completes the north end of its I-405 master plan. There will be an open house from 5-7 p.m. on Jan. 28 at Bothell City Hall about the preliminary project designs.

Bothell’s elected leadership has advocated strongly for the implementation of express toll lanes north of Totem Lake in Kirkland to Lynnwood as part of the plan, according to its letter. WSDOT has initiated design of the first phase of this project and is pushing to be able to get legislative funding to allow for a 2024 first phase opening date.

But in the future, transit “cannot use express toll lanes (ETL) and serve 195th ramp stations,” according to a Sound Transit presentation to the combined SR 522/SR 523 and I-405 BRT elected leadership group on Nov. 30, 2018.

“Use of ETL lanes by the I‐405 BRT becomes a detriment to Bothell when two of the three stops in the representative ST3 alignment in Bothell would be eliminated because they cannot be accessed via the ETL,” according to the letter.

Bothell councilmember James McNeal and deputy mayor Davina Duerr serve in the group, and expressed their concerns with the plan. Duerr said that when the ETLs come online, Bothell is set to “lose two stops and a park and ride at Brickyard that now has 300 spots.”

“We’ve been told that BRT won’t work without express toll lanes, but this plan ensures that BRT won’t work in Bothell,” Duerr said.

The representative project had BRT operating in the general purpose lanes, Morikawa said. Using the ETLs will cut travel time from Lynnwood to Bellevue by 24 minutes.

“The interim solution does not accommodate the express toll lanes but will be complete around the same time that BRT and the express toll lanes come online. There is no proposed funding for the final solution,” Duerr told the council at its Dec. 4 meeting. “When and how, I asked — ST4?”

Duerr said she would prefer a solution that involves Bothell’s multi-modal downtown. A route that would divert BRT from I-405 to the park and ride on Kaysner Way would add about 10 minutes of travel time, according to Sound Transit.

“It’s not that any one particular solution is absolutely the best, but I think we don’t understand how we’re being taken care of with some of these issues,” Morikawa said.

Sound Transit staff proposed three alternatives, including a modified connection at Northeast 195th Street, a transfer on the south side of the UW Bothell campus and the downtown connection. UW Bothell doesn’t support the second option, as it uses the south side of its campus for parking and deliveries and is building a new maintenance facility there.

Bothell council was also concerned about the bus barn, which will house 120 buses for maintenance and storage when they’re not in use. Sound Transit’s preferred location is a 12.5-acre site in Canyon Park, which is also a potential regional growth center. Bothell estimates that the bus barn could cost the city 1,000-1,800 dwelling units, 1,500-3,200 in population and 200-1,200 jobs.

The bus barn “would be a long‐term liability economically without adequate mitigation such as the requirement to develop it as a transit‐oriented development,” according to the city’s letter, signed by Mayor Andy Rheaume.

The letter urges Sound Transit to take more time to study the options and work with the city to identify a long-term solution. Councilmembers agreed that they want to make BRT work for the city.

“It is our one and only opportunity, at least for the foreseeable future,” McNeal said.

For more, see www.sound transit.org/system, and share your thoughts at brt@sound transit.org.

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