I emailed the below “Letter” to the Bellevue Reporter in response to an article in their July 19th paper. Its unlikely they will print it so have posted it along with more details on how the east side legislators can and should stop East Link.
One would never know from reading what our legislators said to the chamber regarding transportation that in three short years, Sound Transits East Link program will change our area forever. Closure of the bridge center roadway to install light rail will result in increased congestion and inevitable gridlock on the bridge outer roadways.
Light rail construction will devastate a beautiful boulevard with huge trenches and elevated roadways. Light rail operation will result in noisy trains trundling through the neighborhoods for 20 hours a day. Sound Transits pitiful attempts to mitigate will be of little help to many.
It doesn’t have to happen, but will if our legislators let it.
Quite frankly I don’t know which is worse. The fact the legislators didn’t discuss East Link or the East Side Chamber Legislative Coalition didn’t ask about it. Instead they lamented the legislature’s inability to pass the 10-cent increase in gas taxes. Presumably the chamber members were more aware than many of the people I talk to who don’t realize that East Link will close the center roadway forever.
Again, East Link can be stopped. For example the legislature can use its oversight of the WSDOT to require Sound Transit substantiate the East Link benefits in their Environmental Impact Statement prior to allowing them to proceed. Two claims in particular need more explanation;
1) With East Link, the center roadway would have a peak hour capacity of up to 18,000 to 24,000 people per hour, equivalent to between 6 to 10 freeway lanes of traffic.
2) Travel times across I-90 for vehicles and trucks would also improve or remain similar with East Link.
Simple mathematics for their 4-car trains every 7 minutes belies the capacity claims even if they manage to cram 200 riders on each of the four 74-seat cars. Their 4-car train assumption also ignores the fact they have yet to verify the I-90 Bridge can support four 74-ton cars, more than 4 years after warnings from the FHWA their 2006 tests were inadequate.
Sound Transit no longer talks about 4 car trains, only that the I-90 Bridge can support East Link, the first light rail installation on a floating bridge. The legislature should demand WSDOT and Sound Transit demonstrate the bridge can withstand the loads from four light rail cars.
Sound Transit claims travel times for vehicle and trucks would not increase presumes the 4th lane they plan to add to the outer roadways will make up for the loss of center roadway. A 2004 FHWA study disagrees with that conclusion. The legislature should demand WSDOT and Sound Transit demonstrate the outer roadways have the needed capacity to accommodate all trucks and vehicles.
Both of these demonstrations are critical to making East Link a viable alternative for cross-lake commuting. Sound Transit has spent 100’s of millions promoting East Link. Force them to spend part of the $90 million they’re spending this year (and presumably more next year) to demonstrate the bridge can withstand the loads and that the 4th lane on the outer bridge can accommodate all vehicles. The added 4th lanes would immediately help cross-lake commuters and allow a temporary center roadway closure to verify their ability to accommodate all cross-lake vehicles.
My guess is they will fail both putting an end to this debacle. Residents need to ask their legislators to demand the WSDOT require the two demonstrations. Obviously the sooner the better.