A recent unanimous vote by the Bellevue City Council has paved the way for the Eastside metro area to get on board for Sound Transit East Link Project, a light rail line that will connect Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake.
Work on the Bellevue line will begin in 2015, with the line expected to be in operation by 2025.
The approval vote in Bellevue moves the greater Seattle metro area closer to implementing a mass transit system with multiple lines that aims to ease the region’s notorious commuter traffic.
Despite legal and economic challenges, rail projects are grinding forward in many different parts of the country – and with good reason. According to the American Public Transportation Association, of the 20-odd light rail systems in the United States, five of them -- Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Portland, Ore., – account for more than 25 million passenger rides per year.
Norfolk, Va., added its new light rail line in 2011. The service, called The Tide, was so popular that it attracted its 1 millionth rider 150 days ahead of schedule. Rail advocates in cities like Tampa and Cincinnati are also lobbying local government officials to put concrete plans on the books.
California is the only state undertaking a high-speed rail project, spurred by federal dollars provided for in the 2009 stimulus package, when President Barack Obama called for new high-speed rail corridors to be built.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority's plans to break ground later this year on an initial segment in the San Joaquin Valley, although a opposition to track placement could hamper the project’s requirement of carrying passengers on bullet trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2.5 hours.
The move toward rail projects appears to mirror commuter demands. According to the APTA, record numbers of Americans took public transportation in 2012, resulting in the nation's second highest annual ridership since 1957.
The APTA said some of the largest increases occurred in Los Angeles, where the Expo Line opened last April.