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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

48th Dist. Candidate Forum Presentation

I had intended to present the following opening statement as well as talking points for several related issues at the 48th District Candidates forum.  Unfortunately my recovery from long delayed back surgery was far more restrictive than what I had anticipated and so was unable to attend.  I decided to post it.

Opening Statement
I’m here today not to attract votes but to make more people aware of the impact of Sound Transits Prop 1 light rail extensions on the entire area.

Twenty years ago ST could have moved non-transit HOV to 4th lanes on the I-90 Bridge outer roadway and initiated 2-way bus only lanes on the center roadway.  They could have done it in two years at a fraction of light rail costs.  The added outer roadway lanes would have eased congestion for all cross-lake vehicles and the center roadway lanes could each easily accommodate more than 720 buses an hour.

Instead ST will shut down the bridge center roadway in 2017 and spend six years and $3 billion completing East Link.  Shutting down the center roadway will increase outer roadway congestion and light rail construction will disrupt downtown Bellevue and those living or commuting along the route.  

When complete, East Link will provide at most thirty light rail cars an hour for I-90 transit riders.  Yet ST intends to terminate all cross lake buses forcing 20,000 commuters to transfer to and from light rail at South Bellevue or Mercer Island for the ride into and out of Seattle.  If each of the 74-seat light rail cars can carry 150 riders, it will take nearly 4 ½ hours each morning and afternoon for the 20,000 transit riders. 

As a result, East Link will force every I-90 commuter, not just transit riders, to choose between attempting to drive into Seattle on a heavily congestion outer roadway or ride a bus to South Bellevue or Mercer island and attempt to get on an over-crowded light rail car.  The fact ST will also be required to pay $285 million annually to cover the shortfall between East Link operating costs and fare box revenue simply adds to the insanity.

My opponent’s response to years of emails detailing these problems was “Get over it, Sound Transit is going to install light rail across I-90 come hell or high water”. 

My goal is to prove him wrong.

Stopping East Link
1. Persuade the Seattle Times to write a single feature article exposing East Link problems.  Doing so would likely convince the Sound Transit Board members, who are all elected officials, as well as all the other groups supporting Sound Transit to stop it.
2. Persuade local legislators to use their oversight responsibility to insist the WSDOT refuse to allow ST to close down the I-90 center roadway to install light rail.  3.
3. Persuade Bellevue City Council to disallow the 10 permits ST needs for East Link.  There is plenty of legal justification.  East Link noise impact on Mercer Slough Park clearly violates federal environmental law.  Also, there are no regulations forcing the BCC to accept light rail through the city.  While RCW 36.70A.200 and 47.06.140 limit the council from limiting high capacity transportation though the city there is nothing to keep them from selecting high capacity bus service rather than light rail.

Light rail noise problem
1.  Sound transit has been forced to spend millions “sound-proofing” homes more than 300 feet from Center Link 2-car trains.
2.  East Link 4-car trains, particularly on elevated tracks have forced ST to attempt to “mitigate” the noise for all the properties along the west side of the route into Bellevue.  However, they have done absolutely nothing to reduce noise impact on Mercer Slough Park, a clear violation of Federal Environmental Law.
3.  ST East Link plans for Bel Red also appear devoid of any mitigation particularly along elevated tracks.

Bel Red Development
1. A “South Lake Union” streetcar system would far better meet Bel Red transit needs.  Tracks could either circle through the area or run on parallel tracks from 116th to 140th with connections across 405 to the Bellevue T/C.
2. The tracks could be at street level, far more accessible with multiple stops along the route instead of the two huge light rail stations.
3. The streetcar schedule would be set by local needs rather than ST plans for 121 trains, each with four noisy 70-ton cars trundling though every 4-5 minutes for 20 hours a day.
4.  The maintenance facility for the streetcars would be far less objectionable than what ST needs for East Link.

520 Transit Needs
1.  520 bus routes to a T/C at the University station would be far better than East Link for cross lake commuters from both sides of the lake.
2.  East side residents could have direct bus connections between P&R lots and the UW station for fast reliable light rail connections into Seattle.
3.  Seattleites could use the return routes for these buses for direct bus connections to Bellevue T/C and other eastside work locations.
4. The routes would be reversed in the afternoon
5. The large number of commuters in both directions would take maximum advantage of Central Link capacity.
6. Terminating the 520 buses at UW would reduce congestion in Seattle.

East Link Budget Impact
Each light rail car costs ST $22.48 per mile to operate (excluding depreciation) or $90 per mile for a 4-car train.
ST intends to provide 121 East Link round trips daily, eventually between Redmond and Lynnwood and back, a 77-mile circuit. 
The operating cost is $90 per mileX77 miles per trip X 121 trips per day= $838,530 per day
The fare box revenue is 10,000 non transfer riders per day X $3.00 per rider = $30,000
Subsidy required $838,538 - $30,000 = $808,538 per day
Assume weekend subsidy half weekday so weekly and yearly subsidies are $4.85 million and $252 million respectively (without depreciation)
Assume 60 ~$5 million light rail cars last 10 years so depreciation averages $30 million a year.
Total $282 million

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