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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lynnwood Light Rail Route Choice Clear

(An article in today's Seattle Times prompted me to write the following post)

The arguments in the Oct 11th Seattle Times article concerning the affects of Sound Transit’s Lynnwood light rail link are eerily familiar to Bellevue residents.  In both cases wetlands are being degraded and hundreds of residents homes will be impacted. 

Like many in Lynnwood, the Bellevue City Council majority initially advocated for a route that minimized light rail impact on homes and parks.  In the end they capitulated to Sound Transit demands by agreeing to a route that encroached on Mercer Slough Park and devastated the lives of hundreds along the route.  Even more absurd they agreed to pay $200 million for a tunnel under the city center.

Like East Link’s encroachment on Mercer Slough Park, the Lynnwood route’s “elimination of or severe damage” to Scriber Creek Park would normally be considered a violation of federal environmental law that states

When the DOT determines 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.

The environmental damage to the area and to residents from light rail plans for Scriber Creek Park would surely not be called de minimis.  Thus, environmental law would presumably require a thorough study of "viable alternatives"  The C-3 alternative which avoids the park, runs along Interstate I-5, and dramatically reduces the numbers of properties impacted would surely be a “viable” alternative.   

The reduced number of properties impacted by the C-3 alternative could represent a significant cost advantage.  Central Link noise levels have forced Sound Transit to spend millions on complete exterior and interior wall replacement and new double and triple pane windows for homes more than 300 feet from the tracks. It’s not clear whether the 300 homes officials predict C-1 alternative impacts includes all those within 300 feet of the tracks.   

Whatever the final number of homes affected, the costs along with the disruption to the lives of those living near the C-1 route, plus the fact it violates federal environmental law, make the choice much more than a case of “wetlands and parks” vs. “transit-oriented development”.   Those advocating for the “transit-oriented” route need to recognize light rail’s failure to attract "development” is largely responsible for Central Link current daily ridership being less than a third of the 110,000 riders Sound Transit was predicting for 2010.

In conclusion, as viewers already know, the goal of this blog is to stop all Sound Transit Prop 1 extensions.  If allowed to proceed the costs involved in constructing and operating light rail over the longer routes will create a perpetual "black hole" for the areas financial funds.  What's absurd is  commute times for those riding light rail will undoubtedly be longer than what they already have or could easily have with far less expensive buses.  

However, if Lynnwood officials still want light rail, they owe it to their constituents to demand a light rail route that minimizes light rail's impact on their lives, something Bellevue officials failed to do.  

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