The recent Bellevue City Council elation over the East Link permitting agreement and the Bellevue Reporters accolades for this achievement remind me of the infamous legend of “Nero Fiddling While Rome Burns”. How else can one describe such elation about something that will be so disastrous for so many.
This new “understanding between Kevin Wallace and the Executive Director for Link Light Rail” appears to only require that light rail alignment provide a 60-foot clearance between the tracks and “an existing residential primary structure”.
This seems to be a rather “optimistic” assessment since South Seattle homes up to more than 300 feet from the Center Link tracks have required significant structural modifications because of noise issues. The Federal Transit Administration’s vibration avoidance setback standard is 150 feet. Presumably the East Link 4-car trains would have even a larger noise and vibration impact than the Central Link’s two-car trains.
Its difficult to understand the Building a Better Bellevue claim the agreement will maintain property values. Exactly what properties along the route is Sound Transit going to purchase? What is Sound Transit going to do for those living up to 300 or more feet away that will likely be impacted by light rail noise and vibration? It’s not inconceivable Sound Transit could claim that Bellevue, by virtue of agreeing to the route and the 60 foot clearance, would be responsible for noise and vibration issues outside that level. ST managed to convince the BCC to pay $200 million for a tunnel through city center. Why stop there.
Whoever picks up the “tab" it's clear many Bellevue residents will face a hassle in getting the “improvements”, see the value of their homes plummet, and have their lives changed forever. Residents and others throughout the entire city will be forced to come up with the $200 million the council has agreed to pay ST. Commuters throughout the entire area, but particularly cross-lake commuters will face increased congestion because of ST’s confiscating the bridge center roadway for light rail when BRT could have alleviated the area’s congestion. This “mitigation” agreement if it leads to BCC approving the permits ST needs will exact a heavy toll on many people.
As with light rail itself (see 11/14/12 post) the big benefactors from mitigation are the construction companies and their labor unions doing the “improvements”. Presumably many of who belong to the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington (ABCWW)