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, February 14, 2014

Times Could Stop Sound Transit Debacle

The Feb 11th Times headline “Bertha on hold for months” continues their several week effort detailing “problems” with the tunnel replacement for the viaduct.   The article warns of a several-month delay and increased costs, presumably adding to the prior 4-month delay from this and other problems.

This article, like earlier articles about the WSDOT 520 bridge pontoons  typifies their ability to inform readers about problems with current transportation projects.  It's clear they’re concerned the tunnel and bridge problems will likely result in several months delay and several hundred million in additional costs.  Unfortunately there is very little they can do to affect the results.

Even more unfortunate they seem oblivious to problems where they could make a difference: Sound Transits fatally flawed Prop 1 extensions.  The long-term damage from implementing these extensions will dwarf current problems with the tunnel and bridge projects.  

A single article in the Times could go a long ways towards ending this debacle.  Instead they continue advocating for a purported “transportation fix”, the equivalent of a band aid when a tourniquet is needed to stop ST from “hemorrhaging” hundreds of millions each year on the fatally flawed Prop 1 extensions.

A Times article could stop the “hemorrhaging” by reporting Sound Transits light extensions will never perform as promised in 2008. (Their  DEIS East Link promises were sheer fantasy.)  It isn’t clear whether their failure to report this reality is due to of a lack of competency or concern.

Any competent investigation would quickly conclude high train operating costs (e.g. $22.48 per mile, per car, excluding depreciation) would make the Central Link portion of the ten-year, $20 billion Prop 1 extensions far too expensive to operate.  Those choosing (or forced) to ride Central Link extensions will face longer commute times than what they previously had (or could easily have had) with buses.  The operating cost for the long extensions will perpetuate (or exacerbate) the fact that fare-box revenue currently covers less than 5% of the Sound Transit budget.

Any analysis would conclude East Link’s 2016 closure of bridge center roadway will change cross-lake commuting forever.   Mercer Island residents will lose their easy access to Seattle and Bellevue residents living along the route will face years of disruption from construction and a lifetime of light rail train noise. 

Light rail will never have the promised capacity nor the capacity needed for I-90 bus riders ST intends to transfer to light rail at the South Bellevue or Mercer Island stations.   Forcing commuters to transfer will be a strong disincentive to use even this limited capacity.   The likely result will be fewer riders and more drivers exacerbating outer roadway congestion.

In conclusion nothing can be done about the $1-1.5 billion already spent or the $400 million budgeted for this year.  These “investments” however pale in comparison to the $2 billion ST will spend annually over the next ten years on the $20 billion extensions.  Rather than advocate for a “band aid,” the Times should alert the public and urge legislators to do “whatever it takes” to stop the “bleeding”.  

Urge Seattle, Mercer Island, and Bellevue residents to demand their city councils disallow the permits needed for construction.  Explain to constituents of board members the devastating effect of their representative’s failure to properly oversee Sound Transit.   Ask voters to contact their legislators, particularly those on the transportation committees to support whatever legislation is required.  

“Persuade” Sound Transit to “reallocate” their spending to projects that will ease the area’s transportation crisis.  Use Central Link funds to help with the tunnel, add a T/C at the University and keep Metro from having to slash service. (Terminating Central Link at a University T/C would provide access to thousands of 520 commuters and end the insanity of Lynnwood having twice the number of trains as the east side.) 

Use East Link funds to stop 520 tolls and never start tolls on I-90, add 4th lanes to the outer roadway and implement two-way bus only lanes on the center roadway assuring adequate cross-lake mass transit for far into the future.   These “reallocations” are surely a better way to spend the $2 billion ST will “invest” annually over the next ten years on light rail.

A single Times article could go a long way towards making the "reallocations" a reality.  Time will tell whether they choose to do so.The fact their banner includes "Winner of Nine Pulitzer Prizes" makes me optimistic.

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