About this blog

My name is Bill Hirt and I'm a candidate to be a Representative from the 48th district in the Washington State legislature. My candidacy stems from concern the legislature is not properly overseeing the WSDOT and Sound Transit East Link light rail program. I believe East Link will be a disaster for the entire eastside. ST will spend 5-6 billion on a transportation project that will increase, not decrease cross-lake congestion, violates federal environmental laws, devastates a beautiful part of residential Bellevue, creates havoc in Bellevue's central business district, and does absolutely nothing to alleviate congestion on 1-90 and 405. The only winners with East Link are the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington and their labor unions.

This blog is an attempt to get more public awareness of these concerns. Many of the articles are from 3 years of failed efforts to persuade the Bellevue City Council, King County Council, east side legislators, media, and other organizations to stop this debacle. I have no illusions about being elected. My hope is voters from throughout the east side will read of my candidacy and visit this Web site. If they don't find them persuasive I know at least I tried.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2nd Presentation for 48th District Republicans

For years I’ve been amazed at Sound Transits ability to claim that light rail was the answer for cross-lake commuters.   Their 1996 study had initially considered adding a 4th lane to the outer roadways and two-way bus rapid transit, or BRT, lanes on the center roadway.  Even a cursory analysis would have determined BRT lanes could provide far more capacity than light rail, easily enough for any future cross-lake transit demands.  

15 years ago Sound Transit could have initiated this BRT service across 1-90 providing express bus routes from every eastside P&R directly into Seattle.  Commuters could have left their cars near where they live rather than where they work, reducing congestion throughout eastside.

Instead, Sound Transit has spent years and hundreds of millions promoting cross-lake light rail along with studies of nearly every conceivable route through the eastside.  Their 2008 Environmental Impact Statement never mentioned BRT; instead insisting center roadway retain the two existing reversible combination bus and HOV lanes.  It’s hard to believe they spent years studying cross-lake commuting without recognizing BRT was better than light rail.  My guess is they just didn’t like that answer.

Sound Transit deceptions didn’t end there. They’ve claimed for years that all the cross-lake vehicles could be accommodated on the outer roadway once they added the 4th lane for bus/HOV traffic.  However, their 2004 studies showed combined bus/HOV traffic on a single lane didn’t provide needed capacity.  They also lied with claims light rail would be like adding 10 lanes of freeway across I-90 bridge increasing cross-lake commuting by 60%.   The reality is East Link will provide, at best, one 4-car train every 7 minutes.  Most cross-lake commuters won’t even have access to light rail.

What’s remarkable is Sound Transits ability to get away with these fabrications for all these years.  I’ve tried to raise these issues with the Bellevue City Council, legislators from both parties, and most importantly the media.   The council could have refused to approve building permits, the legislators could have directed the DOT to stop light rail, a single story in any major media outlet detailing their mendacity would have ended it.   Instead, they’ve been allowed to continue spending millions each year promoting East Link with countless studies and planning. 

Fifteen years after agreeing a 4th lane should be added to the outer roadways Sound Transit still hasn’t done so.   The added lane could have benefitted cross-lake commuters, particularly reverse commuters.  Instead they intend to wait until 2016, adding 4 more years of cross-lake congestion.  Congestion that recently increased because of the additional traffic from those avoiding 520 tolls.

My primary reason for running is to use the voters’ pamphlet to attract voters to my blog so they can read for themselves about East Link problems.  I had hoped my emails to the media would get more attention if I mentioned my candidacy.  It hasn’t worked.  I still get ignored.  The Bellevue Reporter won’t even acknowledge my candidacy.

Good things have happened.  Build a Better Bellevue has sued to block East Link on grounds Sound Transit didn’t consider their “Deep Bore Tunnel” option, a clear violation of federal environmental law.  However I have concerns any study they do will show the tunnel option, while feasible, could be rejected because it was not “prudent” due to their assessment of the additional costs.  I referred Build a Better Bellevue to a post on my blog proposing cross-lake BRT as an alternative.  No one could deny BRT was both feasible and prudent.  It would avoid devastating a beautiful part of Bellevue, gridlock on I-90, and save billions while doing so.  They haven’t responded.

Some things haven’t gone as well.  I had a meeting with the Municipal League where I got the distinct impression they considered me some sort of a Don Quixote type going around attacking “windmills”.  They simply couldn’t believe some retired Boeing engineer’s claim Sound Transit had lied for years about the modified outer roadway capacity for vehicles and about East Link light rail capacity and accessibility.  

As I pointed out earlier, Sound Transit has had lots of help in perpetuating East Link.  Many of the people I talk to have no idea Sound Transit is planning to permanently shut down the center roadway in 2016 forcing all cross-lake vehicles onto the outer roadways.  Sound Transits own studies show outer roadway congestion will increase, inevitably leading to eventual gridlock.  Sound Transit’s closing the center roadway will allow them to precede spending billions constructing a light rail system which, when complete in 2023, will consist of one 4-car train every 7 minutes.  Again, most cross-lake commuters won’t even have access to it.   It doesn’t have to happen.   

Stopping East Link requires making the entire eastside aware of its problems.  My blog is my attempt to do so.  I’m hoping it will spur them to 1) urge Build a Better Bellevue propose BRT as the alternative to light rail, 2) insist Bellevue City Council use their permitting authority to stop East Link, and 3) persuade legislators to use their oversight authority of DOT to end light rail.  I need your help to spread the word.   My campaign staff, my daughter, has printed some cards that refer to my blog.  I’ll leave them on the back table.  I urge you to read my blog and if you agree with my concerns spread the word. 

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