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, March 6, 2013

Sound Transit East Link Funding Not "Prudent"

Sound Transit East Link Funding Not "Prudent"

Sound Transit, for all its faults, does provide a lot of information about their budgets.  For example a December 20, 2013 article,“ST moves into 2013 with major planning, engineering and construction efforts” includes the following planned expenditures.

A. $166 million to continue construction of the extension from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington
B. $83.8 million for Northgate Link Extension design and construction
C. $91.9 for East Link final design
D. $72 million for design-build work to extend light rail from Sea-Tac

Not surprisingly the largest was the $166 million to continue the tunnel construction for the expansion north to the University District.  Both the Northgate extension and the Sea-Tac extension apparently involve significant construction with the Ses-Tac extension scheduled for completion in 2016.  

It’s more difficult to understand the need to spend $91.9 million for East Link “final design” when serious construction doesn’t begin for 3 years.  What’s not “prudent” is that probably none of this money will be spent on two major concerns. 

The first is Sound Transit refusal to spend the relatively miniscule funds required to finish the 4th lane on the 1-90 Bridge outer roadways by “restriping” the Seattle to Mercer Island portion.  This 4th lane for bus/HOV traffic could have been added 15 years ago and would have reduced cross-lake congestion for everyone, but particularly “reverse” commuters.  

The delay until 2016 has had two additional results beyond the needless increased congestion.   Sound Transit could have verified their claims that the modified outer roadway could accommodate all the cross-lake vehicle by temporary closures of the center roadway.   They “may” have been concerned the closure would confirm their 2004 study (5/16/12 post) which concluded the single lane did not have the needed capacity.

Adding the Bus/HOV lane to the outer roadways could have also allowed dividing the center roadway into two-way bus only lanes (i.e. BRT). The delay has eliminated any ST concerns cross-lake BRT commuters might “object” to losing their express bus service because the center roadway was closed to install light rail.

The second East Link concern that ST will probably not address is the ability of the I-90 Bridge to withstand the loads from their planned 4-car trains.  The 7/04/12 post “LW Bridge Concerns With East Link” explains the problem.  Spending $91 million on light rail design without confirming the bridge integrity doesn’t seem “prudent”.  The ST risk is that further studies may confirm the FHWA 2009 “bridge-expansion-joint” concerns.  As the post explains the result could restrict the number of cars (74 tons each) in each train, eviscerating East Links already meager capacity. 

I may be wrong as to why ST money has apparently decided not to fund these issues.  However, as many posts on this blog have detailed, ST past actions don’t inspire confidence.

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