I’m running to inform voters that Sound Transit and WSDOT are attempting to perpetrate a monumental fraud with their East Link program. Their light rail installation on the I-90 bridge center roadway will never have the capacity or the accessibility to accommodate more than a tiny fraction of cross-lake commuters. Their planned 4th lane addition to the outer roadways will never provide the capacity needed for cross-lake vehicles.
East Link will result in billions spent on a transportation project that will lead to gridlock on the 1-90 bridge, devastate a beautiful part of residential Bellevue, wreck havoc in downtown Bellevue, and do absolutely nothing to relieve congestion on 405 and I-90. The only winners are the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington and their labor unions.
I believe the contractors provide funds to Republicans, the labor unions give to Democrats, and Sound Transit provides advertising revenue to the media. East side legislators, King County and Bellevue City Councilmen, and the media don’t seem to care about the disaster that awaits commuters.
The East Link debacle began in the 1990’s with preliminary studies of several alternate cross-lake configurations. A May 2004 document, “I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations Final EIS” provides the results. One of the configurations initially studied was R-4 which added a 4th lane to the outer roadway for HOV/Transit and divided the center roadway into west bound and east bound bus only lanes. This configuration was rejected apparently because of Mercer Island objections to their loss of SOV on center roadway. The study recommended configuration R-8A, which added the 4th lane to the outer roadway and retained the current center roadway configuration with two reversible lanes for bus and HOV traffic and Mercer Island SOV.
A September 2004 Federal Highway Adminstration document, FHWA-WA-EIS-3-01-F, provided more details. It evaluated configuration R-2B which kept current 3-lane-outer-roadway configuration but divided center roadway into east bound and west bound bus and HOV lanes. It concluded that single lanes did not have the capacity to accommodate both bus and HOV traffic. They never considered increasing center roadway capacity by moving the HOV traffic to outer roadway and limiting center roadway to two-way buses, the R-4 configuration. Each bus lane could accommodate up to 1200 buses per hour, more than enough to meet any future cross-lake transit requirements. Instead R-8A, which added the 4th lane to the outer roadway and maintained the existing center roadway configuration, was preferred.
Sound Transit and the WSDOT decided to tell the public a 4th lane on the outer roadways could accommodate both bus and HOV traffic. . Their 2008 DEIS Executive Summary included the following; “Travel times across I-90 for vehicles and trucks would also improve or remain similar with East Link”. Sound Transit used this argument to convince a Kittitas judge to allow them to continue with light rail. They simply ignored the results of their own 2004 study.
Sound Transit’s decision to delay adding the 4th lane until 2016 is a clear indication of their duplicity. They could have added the lane more than 15 years ago. It would have cost very little and immediately benefitted cross-lake commuters. The 4th lane would have been particularly beneficial for reverser commuters and to provide added capacity to meet recent increased demand from those avoiding 520 tolls.
Moving the HOV traffic to the outer roadway would have also freed up the center roadway for two-way bus-only lanes. The bus lanes would have enabled direct bus routes between every eastside P&R and downtown Seattle. The additional transit riders could reduce congestion throughout eastside.
ST delays did two things. They wouldn’t need to demonstrate the modified outer roadway had adequate capacity by temporarily closing off the center roadway. They also made it impossible for cross-lake commuters to benefit from the two-way bus only lanes. Improved bus service ST knew could never be shut down to install light rail. They also assume EL would be impossible to stop in 2016 when people realize how bad outer roadway congestion is with added bus and HOV traffic.
East side voters need to send a message to legislators. Don’t let this happen.