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.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sound Transit's ST3 "House of Cards"

The Seattle Times could do the entire area a tremendous favor by explaining why Sound Transit’s 2016 purported attempts to get voter approval of an additional $1B funding annually for ST3 extensions is far more likely an attempt to keep finances for the Prop 1 extensions from collapsing like a “house of cards”. 

It began after the legislature authorized ST ask voters to approve ST3 funding with Chairman Dow Constantine’s attempt to garner wide-spread support with his “vision” for light rail in the area

“What we can do is create light rail to take you where you want to go, when you want to go, on time, every time, for work, for play, for school”    

He is either mendacious or incompetent for refusing to recognize the cost of constructing and operating light rail extensions can only be justified if large numbers of commuters have access to light rail with the capacity needed to take them where they want to go. 

The ST3 proposal for a second tunnel and light rail extension to Everett to attract support is an example of both ST incompetence and mendacity.  Incompetence because the second extension is a “belated” recognition the Prop 1 I-5 extension to Everett will never have the capacity needed to reduce congestion.  Something they should have learned from a 2004 PSRC document “Central Puget Regional High Capacity Transit Corridor Assessment” conclusion the Seattle tunnel limited light rail capacity to 8880 riders per hour per direction.  Capacity that could be achieved with an additional 90 buses an hour without spending a dime on light rail construction.

It’s also mendacious since if ST were really serious about the 2nd extension why are they continuing to spend billions on Central Link light rail extensions beyond the UW light rail station. They surely don’t need two sets of tracks to Everett.  They presumably recognize the cost for a second tunnel with not only tracks but underground stations to accommodate the 10-or-more-car trains needed to provide capacity would likely be prohibitive.  

Equally either mendacious or incompetent is the ST attempt to garner support for ST3 with their proposals for east side light rail.  The ST 2040 plans for East Link extensions to Bothell, Woodinville, Issaquah, and Renton have apparently all been replaced with an ST3 proposal for a separate light rail line connecting Totem Lake and Issaquah.  The 2040 extensions, presumably dropped because East Link lacked capacity, have been replaced by ST3 light rail very few will use.  (How many riders can one possibly expect between Totem Lake and Issaquah?)  They also attempt to attract eastside support with some vague promises for BRT along I-405, yet refuse to consider BRT for I-90.   However ST makes no mention of providing the additional P&R lots needed to attract commuters.

The obvious question is why is ST going through these machinations in 2016 to obtain funds for ST3 extensions beyond Prop 1’s 2023 completion date.  The first answer is they will need the ST3 funding well before 2023 to complete the Prop 1 extensions. The nearly $300M deficit for 2015 will balloon over the next few years with increased spending on East Link and Central Link extensions.   However, the nearly $2B in funds they recently obtained ($1.3B loan and $600M from bonds) should cover deficits for some time. 

The most likely reason for the expedited 2016 vote gives a whole new meaning to “nefarious”; ST plans to shut down the I-90 Bridge center roadway in 2017.  (I’ve talked to people who still don’t recognize that reality.)   ST is “justifiably” concerned the resulting outer roadway congestion will negate any hopes of eastside support for ST3.  (The most “likely” reason they’ve “delayed” implementing the 4th lanes on the outer roadway until 2017 is “concern” any demonstration would conclude the modified outer roadway couldn’t accommodate all cross-lake vehicles.) 

The failure to get the additional $1B annually will force ST to look “elsewhere” for the billions they will need to fund Prop 1, presumably to a somewhat “skeptical” financial market.  Although ST should be asked "What their plans are without ST3 funds?", the most likely result will be Prop 1 financial viability will collapse like the proverbial  “House of Cards”.   

They already face what would seem to be an “uphill battle” to get voters to approve an additional .5% sales tax, $25 per $100,000 in property tax, and an additional $50 car-tab per $10,000 vehicle value.  (Makes one wonder how that only amounts to ST's purported $200 per adult.)  Any opposition from the Seattle Times, one of their strongest supporters, would doom ST3.   

Again, the Times could do the entire area a huge “favor” with an “early” opposition to ST3 ending any hopes of additional local funding for Prop 1 extensions.  Doing so before ST finalizes their “where light rail might go” options in March and launches a very expensive campaign for support would not only save millions but could lead to ST finally accepting the reality “the only way to ease the area’s congestion is to provide thousands of parking spaces near where people live with direct bus service to near where they want to go”.     

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