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Bellevue College completes $200K roadwork project to avoid Metro bus cuts

King County Metro Transit's latest round of service cuts take effect Saturday. Twenty-eight routes will be eliminated and another 13 will be reduced. (KIRO Radio Photo/File)

King County Metro Transit’s latest round of service cuts take effect Saturday. Twenty-eight routes will be eliminated and another 13 will be reduced. But there’s at least one route that was going to be cut that isn’t going away after customers cut a deal with the transit agency.

Route 271 runs from the University District to Issaquah. Starting Saturday, it will run from the U-District to Eastgate and the Issaquah connection will be gone.

Metro Transit wanted to cut the route’s loop through Bellevue College, which serves about 900 students and staffers each day. Bellevue College went to Metro Transit asking what could be done to save that loop.

“We asked them whether they could make some operational changes to the roadways that the buses use to make them somewhat faster and somewhat more reliable,” said Victor Obeso, Metro Transit’s Manager of Service Development.

Patrick Green, Bellevue College’s sustainability coordinator said they came up with a package of road improvements that would make the loop through campus more efficient.

“They proposed changes to the street infrastructure on campus that would not only increase service through the college but improve safety as well,” said Green.

For $200,000, Bellevue College will separate the bus and car lanes, add speed humps and better direct pedestrians to crosswalks.

But it’s not just the 271 that benefits. Metro Transit runs three other bus routes through that campus loop and Obeso said this package will help them all.

“Time is money for transit,” Obeso said. “If we can operate at four minutes through campus more often than we operate at eight minutes through campus, then we are saving money and saving hours of operating resources on all four of those routes.”

Obeso said it was a good trade off.

But is Bellevue College simply paying Metro Transit $200,000 to stay and not cut their route altogether?

Green said it’s not a direct payment for service. “This is an improvement to our street infrastructure.”

That could just be splitting of hairs. It appears this might be the Metro Transit’s funding plan of the future, as large companies or cities look to find ways to keep the county’s buses serving their people.

Regardless, 900 students and staff members at Bellevue College who are taking the 271 Friday will be able to take it Saturday, even though that service was scheduled to end.

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