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.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

East Link’s Real Environmental Impact

One of the more bizarre aspects of this debacle is Sound Transit promoting East Link with a document they call an Environmental Impact Statement  (EIS).    Their EIS document gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.   Any rationale review would surely conclude that East Link has no redeeming qualities when it comes to environmental impact.

Cross-lake commuters and the environment have already suffered because of East Link.  15 years ago Sound Transit could have moved the non-transit HOV traffic to a 4th lane on the outer roadways and initiated two-way Bus Rapid Transit lanes, or BRT on the center roadway.  The costs for the 4th lane would have been minimal and commuters,  particularly “reverse commuters”, and the environment would have benefitted from the reduced congestion.  The BRT lanes would have enabled 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.

Sound Transit’s plan to delay the 4th lane until 2016 when they shut down the center roadway adds more years of congestion.  (The delay also assures they’ll never initiate BRT service.)  The 2016 closure date is when the environmental “s**t hits the fan”.   The outer roadway 4th lane will never have the capacity to accommodate all the bus and HOV traffic.   ST’s 2004 study showed increasing the HOV requirement from 2+ riders to 3+ didn’t make a significant difference.  The end result will probably be all the non-transit HOV traffic will be forced onto the other lanes inevitably leading to gridlock, an environmental debacle.

The 2016 date also represents the beginning of an environmental nightmare for those living near the route between the south Bellevue P&R and city center.  Sound Transit plans to rip out hundreds of trees and other flora and spend the next 7 years installing two sets of tracks and 5000-volt power lines.  In some instances the tracks apparently run through residents’ back yards.  Build a Better Bellevue has announced their intention to sue because light rail encroachment on the Mercer Slough Park violates federal environmental law.  The historically sensitive Winters home is also threatened.

What ‘s practically obscene is the truly miniscule benefit from East Link when service finally begins in 2023.   After all the money has been spent, neighborhoods wrecked, and commuters frequently gridlocked on the bridge, light rail service will consist of one 4-car train every 7 minutes.  (That assumes ST will be able to show the floating bridge “expansion joints” can withstand the loads from 4 74-ton cars: something they apparently have not yet done to FHWA satisfaction.) 

The only access for most cross-lake commuters to his very limited capacity will be the South Bellevue P&R.  A P&R which will never have the needed capacity or accessibility.   The majority of those who do have access to the P&R and chose to ride light rail will presumably be previous bus riders.  Switching riders from a bus to light rail will do little to reduce cross-lake congestion.

What is really absurd is the fact Sound Transit rather than the state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the final say regarding state environmental protection act (SEPA) requirements.  Only an organization so oblivious to environmental reality as Sound Transit would put the following claim in their EIS:

The East Link Project would also offer environmental 
improvements over the No Build Alternative.

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