Friday’s (2/22) Bellevue Reporter light rail article suggesting “nothing can be done” about the devastation to those living along the route into Bellevue is simply wrong. In particular the East Link deputy project director’s claim, like many Sound Transits pronouncements, that East Link Transit meets federal standards is at least misleading if not wrong.
Federal environmental law used to require any transportation project would only be allowed to encroach on parks if there was no “feasible and prudent alternative”. That regulation would have prohibited East Link since a BRT alternative across I-90 and through Bellevue was clearly “feasible and prudent”.
In August 2005 that regulation was changed to the following:
When the DOT determines that there is a transportation use of a Section 4(f) property, (i.e. parks, recreation areas, historic sites and waterfowl and wildlife refuges) if the impact is de minimis after avoidance, minimization and mitigation, then an analysis of avoidance alternatives is not required.
Thus in order for East Link to meet federal standards, its impact must be de minimis. The recent horror stories for those living along the Central Link in Seattle suggest East Link’s impact will hardly be called “de minimis”. The following excepts from a BBB email describe light rails impact;
Some of these homes are even "protected" by an existing layer of homes, and still incur massive noise and vibration.
A home 300' + back from the train line, with two layers of homes between it and the train line, which still has to be mitigated with complete exterior and interior walls replacement, and with new double and triple pane windows.
Those residents have only been exposed to noise and vibration from two-car trains. East Links plans for 4-car trains would substantially increase the area and the magnitude of the noise and vibration.
No one can rationally argue that a transportation project that devastates lives of hundreds of residents living within 300 or more feet of the light rail tracks could be classified as “de minimis”. The Bellevue City Council should recognize that reality and use the permitting process to stop the East Link debacle. If they refuse this retired engineer believes further legal actions will surely succeed.