The Seattle Times editorial endorsing Claudia Balducci for the King County Council is just another example of how neither they nor Balducci recognize (or care about?) the debacle that awaits the area from the Sound Transit East Link light rail extension.
They credit Balducci with having “shepherded Bellevue through a contentious planning process for Sound Transit’s East Link expansion” and “set aside contentious partisanship on the Bellevue City Council to hammer out the Sound Transit deal.”
The reality is Balducci has used her position on Bellevue City Council, her chairmanship of the PSRC Transportation Policy Board, and Sound Transit Board membership to push through an East Link light rail extension that will be a disaster for the east side. Her efforts in the council largely consisted of convincing the other members to accede to Sound Transit demands.
The Times criticizes Janet Hague for not “questioning” a Metro levy last fall but has no objections to Sound Transit (and Balducci) plans to spend $3.6B on an East Link extension that will reduce I-90 peak transit capacity by 50%, gridlock vehicles on the bridge outer roadway, devastate those living along the route into Bellevue, and end the quiet solitude of the Mercer Slough Park.
They credit Balducci for having “proven to be a leader with intellectual honesty”. One has to question the "intellect" of both the Times and Balducci since neither paid any attention to more than 6 years of my attempts to point out the following:
1) Sound Transit made a monumental blunder when they selected light rail rather than two-way bus only lanes on the I-90 center roadway for cross-lake transit. The bus lanes would have allowed BRT service with 10 times light rail capacity, 10 years sooner, and for less than a 1/10th of the cost. The increased capacity could've provided direct access into Seattle from every eastside P&R, easing congestion throughout area. By contrast, East Link access for I-90 corridor commuters will be limited to light rail stations at South Bellevue and Mercer Island
2) Sound Transit could have added 4th lanes to the I-90 Bridge outer roadways 15 years ago. Commuters from both sides of the lake would have benefited, but particularly “reverse” commuters.
3) Sound Transit refused to recognize the R-8A configuration the FHA approved in Sept 2004 ROD “I-90 Two-way Transit and HOV Operations Project” required “maintaining existing reversible operation on the center roadway”. Instead they told a federal judge the center roadway wasn’t needed for vehicles.
4) Sound Transit refuses to recognize their scheduled East Link service, one 4-car train every 8 minutes, will never have the capacity to meet I-90 transit needs. Their plans to force all transit riders to switch to light rail for their commute into and out of Seattle will reduce peak transit capacity by nearly 50%.
5) Sound Transit refusal to recognize the combination of the increased congestion on the outer roadway because of center roadway closure and the large number of former bus riders forced to “drive” rather than “ride” by the lack of light rail capacity will inevitably lead to gridlock on outer roadways.
As far as “honesty” is concerned, it’s clear she and the rest of the council approved the East Link Shoreline permit knowing (or should have known) Sound Transit had made a mockery of the environmental review process with claims light rail noise requiring millions to shield properties hundreds of feet away form the tracks would have no impact on the Mercer Slough Park. This clear violation of federal environment law will end forever the quiet solitude of the park.
In conclusion, as far as commuters are concerned, Balducci has already been in the Bellevue City Council for far too long. Her endorsement by the Times appears largely based on her steadfast support of Sound Transit policies the Times supports. Cross-lake commuters, who have already endured years of increased congestion because of these policies, will face ever-increasing congestion during light rail construction, and inevitable gridlock when East Link begins service. If allowed to proceed, Balducci and the Times bear a major responsibility for the devastating consequences.