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, January 17, 2014

ST Attempts to "Buy" MI East Link Approval

The January 15th MI Weekly included an agenda for a January 21st ST/WSDOT presentation aimed at getting Mercer Island approval of East Link permits.  It can best be described as “mendacious”, “nefarious” and “absurd”.

The “mendacity is in the “I-90, Carpool Lanes, and Light Rail Plans” proposal which includes the following:

WSDOT will provide an update on its project (now known as R8A) to add transit-HOV lanes to both directions of I-90 in anticipation of the closure of the center roadway for Sound Transit's East Link project.    Sound Transit will explain its plans to take possession of the center roadway for light rail construction once the R8A project is complete; light rail service is scheduled to begin in 2023.

The WSDOT/ST could have added the 4th lanes to the outer roadways (R8A) 15 years ago and spared commuters from both sides of the lake from years of congestion; particularly “reverse commuters”.  Their mendacity in the current proposal is the implication the center roadway won’t be needed for vehicles once the R8A project is complete (4th lane added).  They ignore the fact the R8A configuration the FHWA approved required keeping the two center roadway lanes for bus and HOV traffic.  Thus, ST “taking possession of the center roadway” will force Mercer Island commuters along with all the other cross-lake commuters, to face inevitable gridlock on the outer roadway.

The “nefarious” part of the ST agenda is included under the heading, “Bus Service, Commuter Parking, and Bus Intercept Proposal”:   

              Sound Transit will discuss the current demand for the Island's heavily-used Park-and-Ride lot as well as the agency's commitment to provide at least $6.3 million in funding to address the loss of mobility to and from Mercer Island once the center roadway closes.

This looks like a one-time inducement (bribe?) to convince Mercer Island officials to grant permits for a light rail system that will condemn Mercer Island commuters (as well as all commuters on both sides of the lake) to future gridlock on I-90 Bridge.  To call it “loss of mobility” gives a whole new meaning to “prosaic”.   It hardly describes how the commute for Mercer Islander residents, who have had access to a congestion-free center roadway, will change forever when it’s closed in 2016. Even worse, they’ll benefit very little when light rail operation begins seven years later. (See 12/29/13 post) 

It’s difficult to understand how Mercer Island officials would even consider this “inducement”.  (This proposal also raises questions as to what, if any, other “inducements” have been offered by ST or the construction companies and unions that will benefit mightily if this and the other Prop 1 extensions are allowed to proceed.)

The truly “absurd” agenda item in the Weekly was the following:

Finally, both transit agencies will also brief the Council on a recent proposal to implement a "bus intercept" project on Mercer Island in which certain Metro and Sound Transit bus routes using the I-90 corridor would turn around on Mercer Island and transfer passengers to or from East Link at the Island's light rail station instead of proceeding to Seattle.

First of all it’s highly unlikely Mercer Island residents will be enamored with the idea of their island being the “terminus” for I-90 buses.  Second, East Link light rail service will likely consist of one two-car train capable of about 300 riders every 8 minutes.  The Mercer Island station is the 8th along the route into Seattle.  Mercer Islanders will undoubtedly have great difficulty in finding a place to stand let alone sit.  The idea there will be sufficient room to accommodate those arriving on I-90 buses is laughable.

I look forward hopefully to a subsequent MI Weekly article announcing Mercer Island officials rejected the ST proposal.

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