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.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dear Attorney General Ferguson

I wrote the following intending to submit as a “Contact” to Attorney General Ferguson prior to posting it.  I did so because I (a retired Boeing engineer) thought the Davidson, BBB, Kemper Development petition failed to address my concerns about East Link Shoreline permit approval.  My attempts to inform the Shoreline Hearings Board were rebuffed with the following response:

There is an open Shorelines Hearings Board case open regarding this matter, case number S14-025. The Board does not take comments from the public regarding any matter which could or has come before them.  

Unfortunately “Contacts” to the Attorney General are limited to 5000 characters so decided to include only the first paragraph and refer him to this post.

Dear Attorney General Ferguson,

I am writing to inform you that Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation in connivance with the State Environmental Protection Agency are attempting to perpetrate a monumental fraud that will end forever the quiet solitude of the Mercer Slough Natural Park.

Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act precludes approval of a transportation project that adversely affects waterfowl and wildlife refuges unless the impact is de minimis.  Surely the Mercer Slough Natural Park falls into that category.

The ST response to that requirement is included in the following statement from Section 1.2 “Environmental Evaluation and Procedures” of the Dec 2013 “Bel Red Design & Mitigation for East Link Light Rail”:

Sound Transit has complied with both the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by conducting an evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of the East Link Project. On July 15, 2011, Sound Transit issued the East Link Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued its Record of Decision (ROD) on the East Link Project on November 11, 2011, and the Federal Highway Administration issued its ROD on November 17, 2011. On March 26, 2013, Sound Transit completed and published the East Link Extension 2013 SEPA Addendum.

They neglected to list their July 2011 Draft Supplemental Environmental Document that both the FHA and FTA used as the basis for ROD’s approving East Link.  (They don't even list it with their East Link document archives.) Chapter 3 of that document, "Environmental Consequences" included the following regarding the current light rail route into Bellevue:

1)  Preferred Alternative B2M would not impact noise levels in the park.
2)  Preferred Alternative B2M would not substantially affect park use, the park’s features, activities, and attributes, or diminish the park’s value.    

Another example of ST approach to noise concerns was their response to “Comment ELFEIS014-27” concerning light rail noise in the Aug.11 Attachment D “East Link Final EIS Comments and Response". 

This statement explains that the peak-transit hour noise generated by light rail operations at these locations would be below the existing ambient hourly noise level. Therefore, although the train may still be heard when it passes by, it would not be louder than the existing ambient hourly noise.

The “locations” ELFEIS014-27 comment was referring to were unclear since the comment was illegible. Whatever the location, the ST response “light rail noise would be below existing ambient noise level” is belied by the millions ST is spending to mitigate the light rail noise.

Given ST inputs about lack of light rail noise concern, the fact that both the FHA and FTA approved East Link should be no surprise.  Yet ST did include the East Link Extension 2013 SEPA Addendum.  It goes into explicit detail about all the mitigation efforts for all the properties along Bellevue Way and 112th Ave.   One would have thought the State Environmental Protection Agency would have recognized noise levels requiring that level of mitigation could hardly be classified as de minimis. 

I attempted to raise this issue with SEPA with the following Feb 11th email to the designated ETA “contact” person

Dear Mr. Burcar,
I presented the below information to the Bellevue City Council at their Fed 9 meeting in response to Sound Transits Mr. Lewis comments regarding the FTA and FHA approval of East Link. They chose to ignore my concerns.  Its clear ST mitigation efforts belie their claim East Link will have no impact on Mercer Slough Natural Park.  Its also clear that such impact is a clear violation of federal environmental law requiring any impact be de minimis that would require it be rejected. 
Bill Hirt

           “I was particularly interested in Mr. Lewis’s comments about the importance of the FTA and FHA East Link approval.   What he neglected to mention was the fact their approval was based on the ST Supplemental DEIS.   That was where ST claimed East Link would have no effect on noise levels in the park or substantially affect park use, the park’s features, or diminish the park’s value.  Thus it’s not surprising both organizations chose to approve East Link.  Yet ST has spent years and is here again tonight to explain how they intend to spend millions to mitigate this non-existent noise.  The bottom line is ST mendacity has made a mockery of the whole environmental review process.”

He has yet to respond.  Your office surely has an obligation to prevent ST from making a mockery of environmental review process by devastating a treasured part of our city.

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