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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

BBB Mitigation Proposal Not the Answer for East Link

BBB Mitigation Proposal Not the Answer for East Link

I chose not to attend the February 25th Bellevue City Council meeting because I had already emailed them my 2/20/13 post explaining my opposition to the code revisions, “Bellevue Leadership Alternative Light rail Draft Not the Answer”.   After the meeting I received an email from Building a Better Bellevue lauding the Bellevue City Council’s decision to adopt the code revisions.   This was accompanied by a copy of the presentation they apparently made to the council prior to the council approval.  

It’s hard to reconcile the BBB presentation with their support for the code changes.   For example it includes the following information:

Dozens of homes, standing as far as 200 to 300 feet back from the rail line, often behind multiple intermediary structures, are also now being renovated to address excessive train noise. This mitigation includes completely replacing windows with permanently closed multi-layer panes, installing heavy insulated doors, and installing new ventilation systems.

The Federal Transit Administration’s vibration avoidance setback standard is 150 feet.

Sound Transit has acknowledged it will not be possible to mitigate excessive noise exposure for many homes along the hillside on the west side ob Bellevue Way.

Sound transit would not be required to mitigate noise problems along Bellevue way because City of Bellevue management, not Sound Transit initiated the proposal to replace the proposed trench along Bellevue Way and place the train line at-grade.

It was these sorts of problems that led to my opposition to the draft code revision.  One would have thought the BBB information presented would have them arguing for a 300 foot set back, particularly in view of the fact that East Link will have 4-car trains vs. 2 car trains for Central Link.   Instead the BBB proposal (which initially had called for a 60 foot setback) called for a 100 ft setback for homes along the route (vs. the council draft code minimum setback of 30 feet).

This BBB emphasis on mitigation is at odds with their legal action alleging federal authorities violated environmental law by their approval of East Link.   Instead of mitigation the suit argued for a tunnel or alternate route into Bellevue, or for BRT for cross-lake mass transit.   As the 2/23/13 and 12/02/12 posts explain its clear (at least to this retired engineer) that federal law was violated and that a lawsuit on these grounds would succeed in forcing one of the three alternatives (preferably BRT).   It will be “unfortunate” if they accept “mitigation” instead.  

The BBB justifies its mitigation proposal with the following:

Our recommendations will provide more certainty including speeding up property acquisitions and permit approval

Speeding up property acquisitions helps those who will be bought out and the faster permit approval expedites Sound Transits construction process.   The resultant mitigation efforts will also make lots of money for those doing the “home improvements”.  (See 11/14/12 post ABCWW Big ST/East Link Winner). 

However, the BBB presentation makes it clear many residents living outside whatever final setback is approved will pay a huge price if East Link is allowed to proceed.   They will undoubtedly face a huge hassle in trying to get needed home “improvements” which may reduce the “noise” but do little for “vibration”.   They will probably loose the use of their yards because of the noise.  Owners throughout the area will face a huge loss in value when they try to sell their home.   The BBB mitigation proposal does nothing for them.

I suspect these light rail noise issues played a significant role in Sound Transits decision to tunnel all the way from the University Station to Northgate rather than “cut and fill” trenches part of the way and then street level from the Lake City interchange.   It makes their decision to not even consider a tunnel for the route into Bellevue more “unfortunate”.

ST may or may not have briefed the BCC on the issue.  The BBB presentation should have eliminated any council doubts about noise and vibrations concerns.   However, it’s also makes clear that litigation to force ST to replace light rail with BRT (vibration issues along with costs make the tunnel problematic) rather than mitigation is the best choice

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