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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

BBB Can Stop East Link

The following information was included in the material the BBB provided to the Feb 18th Citizens Advisory Committee regarding the Sound Transit East Link approval process. 

It has been well documented that Sound Transit has struggled to meet its federal requirements for noise mitigation in Seattle. Bellevue's noise standards are even more stringent and protective, yet to date there has been no information from Sound Transit regarding how they intend to accomplish meeting the city standards. It is the belief of BBB that in fact the city's noise standards cannot be met by Sound Transit given its current technology and design approaches elsewhere.

The BBB proposed solution was

BBB has done a major study on an alternative that could solve almost all of the problems, namely a tunnel in south Bellevue. The approach could save Sound Transit as much as $400 million, and their own experts have agreed and recommended the approach to Sound Transit management.

The BBB had previously applauded the Bellevue City Council’s changes to the land use code (LUC) where “mitigation” made East Link “permitable” (See 2/27/13 post) with the following:

Our recommendations will provide more certainty including speeding up property acquisitions and permit approval

The BBB and the Friends of Enatai had previously (June 2012) sued to block FHWA East Link approval because Sound Transit hadn’t considered a tunnel into Bellevue or 2-way bus lanes on the I-90 Bridge center roadway as an alternative to light rail.  The 3/16/13 post details why the judges finding rejecting the concerns seemed “unfounded” and could be appealed.   

At this point its highly unlikely Sound Transit can be “persuaded” by the noise concerns for those living along the route to implement a tunnel into Bellevue.   However, the BBB does have a far better way to avoid the devastating effects of light rail on their neighborhood.  They can file legal action to keep the BCC from approving Sound Transit’s Shoreline Substantial Development Permit Application.   Section 4(f) of the Dept. of Trans. Act protects parks, recreation areas, waterfowl and wildlife refuges from encroachment unless there is no feasible or prudent alternative or the impact is de minimis .  No one can rationally argue that cross-lake BRT is not a feasible or prudent alternative to light rail.  

The fact the permit deals with a “Shoreline” surely requires any approval to be contingent on light rail having a de minimis impact on the Mercer Slough Park.  Yet the Sound Transit Shoreline Permit Application doesn’t mention the impact of light rail noise on the slough.  Central Link grade-level, 2-car trains have forced Sound Transit to “sound proof” homes more than 300 ft from light rail tracks in order to be “livable”.   No one could reasonably argue the impact of noise on the Mercer Slough Park from potentially 4-car trains on elevated tracks near the South Bellevue Station could possibly qualify as de minimis.

The December 2013 Permit Application includes 34 pages and 13 Appendices dealing with the all aspects of the East Link extension to the East Main light rail station.  (Appendix H is the judges decision on the BBB suit.  I’ll leave it to viewers to decide whether the 3/16/13 post concerns are valid.)   Its intent was to demonstrate compliance with the revised land use code (LUC 20.25.H.055) dealing with light rail.  It goes into all sorts of minutiae about how it complies with details of the number of trees removed and their replacements and the Mercer Slough Park acreage affected by the light rail station.  

However nothing in the document addresses the impact of light rail noise on the park.  Appendix A includes detailed drawings of the structures supporting the tracks near the South Bellevue station location.  It's clear no attempt has been made to “mitigate” the noise impact on the Mercer Slough.  While this may be acceptable in meeting the BCC’s revised LUC it certainly fails to meet federal environmental law.   

By comparison Sound Transits March, 2013 addendum to the Final Environmental Impact Statement concerning complying with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) goes into great detail about how they intend to mitigate the noise for those living along the route.  It goes so far as identifying how they intend to mitigate individual properties along the route with noise walls, building insulation, and full or partial acquisitions.

The fact Sound Transit has already been forced to spend millions on sound proofing homes along Central Link clearly indicates the quiet solitude of the Mercer Slough Park will be devastated by East Link.  The BBB should have a relatively easy case to stop the current East Link route.  Rather than opting for a tunnel they should revert to substituting two-way BRT for light rail on the center roadway.

 As well as eliminating the devastation into Bellevue, BRT would eliminate the need for the 1550 car parking facility at P&R along with Sound Transits idiotic idea to force 10,000 bus riders to switch to and from light rail trains every morning and afternoon at the South Bellevue station; especially since East Link trains will never have sufficient capacity. 

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