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, March 7, 2015

The Ultimate Debacle of East Link

The 2/13/15 post detailed why Sound Transit’s closure of the South Bellevue P&R next March will create chaos for those who used the P&R for access to transit.   They will have to chose between driving into Seattle and likely paying for expensive parking there or attempting to use East Gate P&R, forcing many of those who currently fill the facility by 7:30 AM to drive into Seattle.  In any case hundreds of additional commuters will be forced to drive into Seattle.

The 2/18/15 post detailed why the additional commuters will exacerbate the already increased congestion on the I-90 Bridge outer roadway caused by ST’s closure of the bridge center roadway in 2017.   The end result will be light rail construction will increase congestion for all cross-lake commuters.  The construction will also force the closure of 112th Ave, a major route into Bellevue, to install light rail tracks and an elevated roadway.   ST plans to use 108th, a quiet residential street to accommodate the traffic is totally absurd.  The more likely result will be hundreds of additional cars joining mile long lines on I-405 for other routes into downtown Bellevue. 

ST’s other problem is where do they get the money for construction.  The 1/22/15 post explains that construction costs far exceeding current revenue sources have already forced them to get a $1.3B loan.  The construction costs for completing the Prop 1 extensions are only going to escalate with little increase in revenue.  Unless ST can convince voters to provide additional funding (current request to legislature to allow vote on allowing ST to collect property taxes) they’ll need an additional $2-3B in loans to complete Prop 1 extensions.  Paying off those loans will require $150M annually for 48 years. 

Maybe these “temporary” (if 7 years can be called temporary) problems for transit riders, increased cross-lake congestion, disruption to commuters and those living along the route into Bellevue, the huge financial debt load, and loss of the quiet solitude of Mercer Slough Park (2/21/15 post) could be justified if East Link lived up to what ST promised in 2008 was “a gift to our grand children”.  

Their 2008 DEIS claimed that East Link “peak hour capacity of up to 18,000 to 24,000 people per hour, was equivalent to between 6 to 10 freeway lanes of traffic”.   The DEIS claimed East Link  would "Meet  growing transit and mobility demands by increasing person-moving capacity across Lake Washington on I-90 by up to 60 percent".  The reality is East Link will, at most, consist of one 4-car train every 8 minutes with a total capacity of 8880 PPH.   

That level is suspect because, typical of ST incompetence, they chose to demonstrate their I-90 design could withstand light rail loads with only 2-car trains. (East Link is first attempt to install light rail on a “floating bridge”) That’s probably the reason they still hadn’t “finalized” the design at their Feb. 9th status review to Bellevue City Council.  Potential solutions including reducing the number of cars or severely limiting train speed on the bridge would further reduce the capacity.

Even the 4-car train every 8 minutes provides only thirty 74-seat light rail cars per hour.   Yet ST is planning to terminate all I-90 cross-lake buses at the South Bellevue and Mercer Island light rail stations with its Integrated Transit System (ITS).  The 30 light rail cars can’t possibly accommodate the current 84 buses per hour ST anticipates for MI, let alone a presumably similar number of East Gate buses ST plans to route to South Bellevue.   (The fact neither station design can accommodate all the buses attempting to drop off and pick up riders adds to the insanity.)   And these numbers don't even include all the "non-transit" riders attempting to use East Link.

East Link’s lack of capacity and ST ITS plans to require cross-lake riders transfer to and from light rail at the two stations will undoubtedly convince many commuters to “drive rather than ride”, adding to bridge congestion.  Thus all the above problems associated with creating East Link will result in a transportation system that increases rather than decreases cross-lake congestion when it begins operation.

And if that isn’t bad enough, as explained in the 1/22/15 post, East Link operation will require ST provide more than $250M annually to cover the short fall between operating costs and fare box revenue.  That's in addition to whatever is required to pay off the construction loans.   If East Link doesn’t qualify as the ultimate transportation debacle I don’t know what does.

No comments:

Post a Comment