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.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Battle Goes On

As expected, the primary election returns ended my candidacy for the Bellevue City Council.  It did give me the chance to attract attention to my concerns about East Link and the other Prop 1 light rail extensions.  My being in a “contested” primary allowed me to use the Voters Pamphlet to raise concerns before the BCC approved the final East Link permits Sound Transit needed this fall.  The idea of attending “public forums” a general election candidacy would have required never appealed to me.

My candidacy did attract more than 3000 page views for a total of nearly 27,000 to this blog.  While I’ve gotten several positive responses its unclear whether getting the viewers attention will make a difference.  As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”.   Time will tell whether the “viewers” will convince the BCC to stop East Link by disallowing the permits ST needs.  

Failing to do so still does not make East Link inevitable.  I believe Sound Transit’s rush to ask voters in 2016 for an additional billion dollars a year beginning in 2017 reflects a real financial problem.  Without it they will need to borrow $6.6 billion by 2023 to pay for the current version of the Prop 1 extensions.  (That’s in addition to the $1.3B they’ve already borrowed.) 

However, lenders may question ST ability to make the ~$300M annually payments.  The billions they lend for the Prop 1 extensions will create a light rail system “very” expensive to operate.   East Link is a particularly egregious example.  It will require an annual subsidy of nearly $300M to cover the shortfall between the operating costs and fare box revenue.  The other extensions will undoubtedly add substantially to that shortfall.  Thus, it’s not “unreasonable” to question ST’s ability to make the loan payments.

It’s also presumably this reality that led ST to ask voters to approve an additional $1B in taxes each year beginning in 2017, well before any “beyond Prop 1” extensions would need funding.  Without that funding ST may not be able to proceed with the Prop 1 extensions.  The most likely one they’d drop would be East Link, eliminating its huge operating cost subsidy.  Thus defeating ST3 could end East Link. 

 (Who knows?  Maybe even the Times may question the wisdom of giving ST $1.7B each year to fund light rail construction that will, not only do absolutely nothing to reduce the area’s congestion, but will require a $300M subsidy each year for an East Link extension that will increase cross-lake congestion.)

Assuming my current efforts don’t succeed I’ll likely file again to use my candidacy to attract attention to my opposition to ST3.  I would have liked to challenge County Executive Constantine, not only to get wider attention but to point out his appointments to the Sound Transit Board and his head of the board make him the one most responsible for the future light rail debacle.  Unfortunately, I will have to wait until 2017 to do so.  Next year it will likely be another go at Hunter.  By then ST will have closed South Bellevue P&R giving transit riders the first indication of the East Link debacle. To quote an old naval commander “Surrender Hell, I’ve Just Begun to Fight”!

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