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.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Municipal League Candidate Evaluation Committee Presentation

My primary purpose for running for office is to do what I can to expose problems with Sound Transit East Link light rail program.   For more than 30 years studies have evaluated options for improving cross-lake commuting.   A study in the mid ‘90’s concluded any future improvement would include adding a 4th lane to the two outer roadways.  Sound Transit’s problems began when their study considered options for this added lane and how best to use the center roadway.

Even a cursory analysis of the roadway would have concluded it was ideal for bus rapid transit (BRT).  It was 40 ft wide, more than enough for inbound and outbound lanes with a maintenance lane in between.   Moving the HOV traffic to the 4th lane on the outer roadways would allow each center lane to accommodate more than 12 buses per minute.  The only limitation on bus frequency was assuring adequate spacing between buses to stop in the event of a problem with the bus ahead. 

The lane capacity would have been more than enough for existing bus routes and for new express routes serving the entire eastside.  An express route could be assigned to each eastside P&R providing non-stop service to one or two designated drop off points in Seattle on 4th Ave and one or two designated pick-up points along 2nd Ave for the return.  (4th and 2nd Ave would be restricted to buses to facilitate this service.)    Every eastside commuter could have the option of leaving his car near where he lived rather than where he worked.  The increased use of public transit would have eased congestion throughout eastside.  The increased capacity would also provide Seattleites with improved access to Bellevue T/C and other eastside locations.

The real tragedy is Sound Transit initially included this BRT option as configuration R4 in the ‘90’s study but dropped it for no apparent reason.   Their refusal to seriously consider BRT on center roadway and HOV on outer roadway has forced cross-lake commuters to needlessly endure years of congestion.  It’s difficult to believe ST never quietly considered BRT for the center roadway.  They just didn’t like the obvious conclusion it was better than light rail.

Instead, Sound Transit, in 2004 selected configuration R-8A as the preferred “no-build” solution.   R-8A used the 4th lanes on the outer roadways for both bus and HOV traffic with the two center roadway bus/HOV lanes reversing direction between morning and afternoon commutes.    The center roadway HOV/bus lanes were retained because the study concluded a single lane for both HOV and buses did not have enough capacity.   HOV traffic reduced the number of buses that could safely use the lane resulting in insufficient capacity.

Sound Transit’s 2008 DEIS conclusion the R-8A “no-build” configuration did not have sufficient capacity was used to justify the decision to install light rail on the center roadway.  They simply ignored the fact the R-8A configuration selected in 2004 had retained the two existing reversible bus/HOV lanes.  The DEIS claimed the 4th HOV/bus lane would enable the outer roadway to carry all the cross-lake vehicles with no increase in travel time.  They later used that claim to convince a Kittitas judge the center roadway wasn’t needed for vehicles and could be used for light rail.  They simply lied.

Sound Transit also made the absurd claim installing light rail on the center roadway was like adding 10 lanes of freeway that could increase number of cross-lake commuters by 60%.   East Link service will consist of one 4-car train every 7 minutes.   They assume each 74-seat car can accommodate 200 riders.  Even this very limited capacity will only be accessible at the South Bellevue P&R for most cross-lake commuters.   A P&R that will never have the capacity or the accessibility needed for large numbers of commuters.

The bottom line is Sound Transit’s East Link is a monumental fraud.   Their modified outer roadway and light rail installation on the center roadway will never be able to meet cross-lake commuter needs.  If allowed to proceed, the billions spent on East Link will result in gridlock on the bridge, devastation in Bellevue, and do absolutely nothing to relieve congestion on 1-90 and 405. 

It doesn’t have to happen.  It would have ended a long time ago but for the connivance of the WSDOT, BCC, KCC, legislators from both political parties, but most importantly the media.  Even more distressing is Sound Transit’s confidence they will be allowed to continue with this debacle until 2016 when it will be to late to stop it.

I’ve tried for years to raise these issues.  My offers to meet with the Times Editorial Board were ignored.  The Bellevue Reporter won’t even acknowledge my candidacy.  Many of the residents I talk to don’t even know what East Link is.  Most of those who do believe it only affects those living along Bellevue Way/112th route.  They’re unaware it’s going to permanently shut down the center roadway.

Build a Better Bellevue has taken notice of my concerns about East Link encroachment on Mercer Slew Park, a clear violation of federal environmental law, and sued to block East Link.  However, their preferred alternative, a longer tunnel does nothing to abate East Link’s major problem, gridlock on 1-90.  The only answer there is BRT.

My whole reason for running is to expose this fraud.  If elected I will do just that.  If not, I know in the end I‘ll be vindicated.  Even if BBB succeeds in forcing the longer tunnel cross-lake commuters will not be happy with the outer roadway congestion when the center roadway is shut down in 2016.    What will really enrage them will be the miniscule benefit they get when light rail begins operation in 2023.  Again, it doesn’t have to happen.

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