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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Stopping Light Rail Debacle

It seems like Sound Transit and their Board of Directors are doing whatever they can to make their Prop 1 light rail expansions appear to be a fait accompli.  They’re spending hundreds of millions to expedite boring the tunnel, supposedly a 2-year project, for a Northgate extension that’s not scheduled to start service until 2021. 

On the east side they’ve spent millions creating detailed designs and conducting open houses asking for “public input” for things like light rail stations that won’t be needed until 2023.  Their latest “flyer” invites residents to an East Link open house to learn details about “early construction work coming in 2015 and 2016 along Bellevue Way and 112 Avenue SE”.  Again, for a light rail service that begins in 2023.

What’s the rush?  They’re spending all this money even though the City of Mercer council hasn't approved the permits they need to cross Mercer Island.  ST and the Bellevue City Council are still apparently going through the charade of “convincing” the Citizens Advisory Council to approve the permits needed for the route through Bellevue. 

Maybe ST feels all this early effort explaining these “details” will enhance the appeal of their light rail extensions.  (It’s “doubtful” those reviewing the station designs were aware the South Bellevue and Mercer island stations will both be inundated with 10,000 bus riders forced to transfer to and from light rail during the morning and afternoon commutes.)  

Then again, maybe ST and the board are concerned the “public” will recognize the utter stupidity of spending billions on Central Link extensions that will do nothing to ease I-5 congestion and will result in a light rail system too expensive to operate.  Or that eastside commuters will realize the insanity of spending billions for a transportation project that forces 20,000 transit riders to transfer to a light rail system consisting of one 4-car train every 8 minutes to commute into and out of Seattle.  These early "investments" may be ST's attempt to convince skeptics that light rail extensions are a "done deal".   

The reality is this debacle can still be stopped.  The Seattle Times could stop it with a single article exposing the above problems.  Eastside legislators and the legislature's Joint Transportation Committee could use the upcoming session to commission an "independent review team" (similar to the IRT review the JTC commissioned that led ST to finally conduct tests demonstrating I-90 Bridge/light rail structural compatibility) to review light rail efficacy for the area's transit system.  It's highly "unlikely" any competent review would allow ST to proceed.  The same would undoubtedly result if the Mercer Island and Bellevue City councils were to jointly fund an independent study of the issues.  

While I'm still not optimistic,  blog viewers can improve the chances for stopping this debacle by contacting the Times, their legislators, and the city councils urging them to question light rails efficacy.   The entire area will pay dearly if ST is allowed to continue.  

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