I wrote the following “Special to the Times” submission to the Seattle Times in response to the Sunday Times article “Group Challenges Light rail permits for route near Mercer Slough Park. I posted it because it’s doubtful they’ll ever use it.
Mercer Slough Concerns Justified.
Those petitioning the Shorelines Hearing Board to vacate the land use permits the city of Bellevue issued for Sound Transit’s East Link project have a right to be concerned. Sound Transits own June 2011 Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) justifies their assertion the environmental impacts of the East Link’s B segment need to be studied more extensively.
The ST East Link Final Environmental Impact Statement includes the following regarding federal environmental requirements for transportation projects.
Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Act of 1966, as amended and codified at 49 United States Code (U.S.C.) §303, states the following:
……[It] is the policy of the United States Government that special effort should be made to preserve the natural beauty of the countryside and public park and recreation lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites.
Title 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 774 as amended March 2008 states the following:
The Administration may not approve the use, as defined in §774.17, of Section 4(f) property unless a determination is made under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section. (a) The Administration determines
East Link Project Final EIS July 2011
that: (1) There is no feasible and prudent avoidance alternative, as defined in §774.17, to the use of land from the property; and (2) The action includes all possible planning, as defined in §774.17, to minimize harm to the property resulting from such use; or (b) The Administration determines that the use of the property, including any measure(s) to minimize harm (such as any avoidance, minimization, mitigation, or enhancement measures) committed to by the applicant, will have a de minimis impact, as defined in §774.17, on the property.
Thus in order for East Link to proceed Sound Transit must show there is no feasible or prudent alternative or that East Link will have a de miinimus impact on the property.
It's bad enough Sound Transit has never bothered to consider two-way bus only lanes on the I-90 bridge center roadway for cross-lake public transit. It surely is a “feasible and prudent” alternative to light rail. What's worse, the ST SDEIS belies their contention East Link will have a de minimis impact on wildlife and waterfowl refuges (i.e. Mercer Slough Natural Park).
Attachment "G" of the document includes a list of all the properties on the west side of the tracks. A large number of the properties require one of the below options to mitigate light rail noise.
1) Sound Wall on structure --
2) Sound Wall on structure, -- and special trackwork
3) Sound wall on west side of tracks.
4) Sound insulation, if required
In addition Sound Transit has listed several properties they may purchase because of noise concerns.
These concerns are “probably” the result of noise from Central Link trains that has forced ST to “sound proof” homes up to 300 feet from the tracks. East Link 4-car trains and elevated light rail tracks near light rail station will “likely” be noisier than Central Link 2-car trains. Yet ST is doing absolutely nothing to mitigate East Link noise on Mercer Slough park even though light rail tracks encroach on park, hundreds of feet closer than most of the properties across Bellevue Way and 112th Ave needing mitigation.Its clear those challenging the permits surely have reason to question whether East Link light rail noise impact on Mercer Slough Natural Park will be de minimis.