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, June 20, 2014

Sound Transit's Despicable I-90 4th Lane Delays

 One of the more obvious examples of Sound Transit policies that go way beyond mere incompetence is their timing for completing the 4th lanes on the I-90 outer roadways.

The 4th lanes have been part of every potential cross-lake improvement for nearly 20 years.  The costs were relatively small and cross-lake commuters, particularly “reverse” commuters, from both sides of the lake, would have benefited from the added lanes.   Instead cross-lake commuters have endured years of increased congestion because of the delay.  The added lanes would have been particularly helpful in dealing with the increased I-90 traffic due to those avoiding 520 tolls.  Instead the WSDOT solution to the increased congestion is to add tolls for all the I-90 bridge commuters.

The latest schedules from Sound Transit show they’ve once again delayed finishing the 4th lanes from Mercer Island to Seattle until 2017.   It's another example of ST delaying lane completion until it coincides with their delayed schedule for closing the center roadway to install light rail.

One of the more absurd reasons for the delay was a response from Rep Hunter to a 2011 email questioning the delay: “They don’t have the money now”.   ST completed the expensive part of the addition, the construction needed for Stage 1 and Stage 2 through Mercer Island in February, 2012.  The costs for Stage 3, restriping the roadways to allow 4 lanes were surely minimal.  Particularly in comparison to the tens of millions ST expended designing light rail stations that won’t be needed until 2023.

There are two far more “likely” reasons for delaying the 4th lanes to coincide with the center roadway closure.  The first is adding the outer roadway lanes would undoubtedly result in pressure to divide the remaining center roadway into two-way bus only lanes.  The bus only lanes would have 10 times light rail capacity allowing direct bus routes from every eastside P&R.  Commuters would have never allowed ST to stop the center roadway bus service for light rail.  (The increased capacity is the most likely reason they never "considered" two-way bus only lanes as the "no-build" alternative in the EIS.)   The delays precluded any possibility of two-way bus only operation on center roadway.

The second reason is equally nefarious.  ST knew once the 4th lanes were added they would be required to demonstrate the modified outer roadway would have sufficient capacity to accommodate all cross lake vehicles.  They undoubtedly knew the Sept 2004 FHWA study  I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations Project Record of Decision” had concluded single inbound and outbound lanes on the center roadway, the R-2B configuration, did not provide sufficient capacity for both non-transit HOV and buses.  A 2 or 3 passenger HOV required nearly the same lane space as a 70-passenger bus.  Ten HOVs carrying 20-30 riders would displace ten buses and 700 transit riders, a huge loss in capacity.  ST feared any temporary closure of the center roadway would confirm this deficiency and keep them from shutting down the center roadway.  Delaying the 4th lanes eliminated that "risk".

In conclusion, ST 4th lane delays have already increased I-90 congestion for years.  ST willingness to add even more years to the congestion in order to create light rail on the center roadway with only a fraction of bus capacity along with likely gridlock for vehicles on the outer roadways surely qualifies as despicable.

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