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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Fraud that is East Link

The dictionary definition for fraud includes the following: “Something said or done to deceive”.   When light rail was proposed on the I-90 Bridge more than 20 years ago I thought it was an attempt to attract eastside support for light rail taxes needed to fund Central Link in Seattle.  Sound Transit’s subsequent actions make it clear they have no qualms about “deceiving” the public to allow them to proceed with East Link 

Sound Transit’s 2008 East Link DEIS was a clear indication of their approach.  They used it to “justify” light rail with claims it was better than the “no-build alternative”.  Their “alternative” added the 4th lanes to the outer roadways but retained the existing center roadway with both lanes going in peak direction.  The DEIS claimed East Link, with “headways of 9 to 15 minutes” (i.e. between trains),   “would have a peak-hour capacity of up to 18,000 to 24,000 people per hour (pph)” on the I-90 Bridge center roadway  

They knew or should have known that a 2004 PSRC report concluded the Seattle tunnel limited East Link capacity to less than 9000 pph.  They were either incompetent or deceptive when they never considered dividing the center roadway into inbound and outbound BRT lanes in the DEIS; a “no build alternative” with capacity dwarfing that of light rail. 

It’s concern over BRT that “may” have led Sound Transit to delay adding 4th lanes for HOV traffic on the outer bridge roadways that had been part of any I-90 Bridge improvements since the mid 90’s.  The costs would have been minimal and the added lanes would have eased congestion for commuters from both sides of the lake but particularly “reverse” commuters.   Instead the delay facilitated the deception by preventing Sound Transit from ever having to consider BRT lanes on bridge center roadway  that would’ve effectively ended any chance for cross-lake light rail. 

The DEIS deception also included claims that vehicle and truck travel times on the modified outer I-90 roadways would also improve or remain similar with East Link. They convinced a federal judge in the Freeman action to allow Sound Transit to install light rail tracks on the center roadway claiming studies concluded the modified outer roadways could accommodate all cross-lake vehicles.    Yet the very document they cited, the Sept 2004 FHWA Record of Decision, stipulated the two center roadway lanes were still needed for vehicles. 

The deception continues.   Sound Transit will likely close the center bridge roadway next year without ever demonstrating the outer roadways can accommodate all the vehicles.  Their decision to ask for ST3 funding this year rather than later “may” have been influenced by concern eastside voters encountering increased congestion from bridge closure would be less likely to approve funding in 2017   (Many of those I talk to are still unaware of the closure.)  

They likely delayed their planned March South Bellevue P&R closure knowing transit commuters unable to find parking at the remaining P&R lots would also be less “supportive”.   That’s also a “possible” reason they’ve delayed until 2017 all the “high impact” construction along the route into Bellevue that will disrupt all those who live or commute along 112th and Bellevue Way.

Again, ST3 approval will guarantee Sound Transit will spend the next 5-6 years disrupting those living or commuting along the route into Bellevue as well as all those using I-90 bridge for their commute into and out of Seattle.  (The only beneficiary will likely be the WSDOT, which will see substantial increases in their SR-520 bridge toll revenue from those avoiding the congestion).

Cross-lake commuters will certainly recognize the East Link “deceit” when it begins operation in 2023.   The Sound Transit video on their East Link Extension website depicts their version of what cross-lake commuting will be like when service begins.  Both inbound and outbound lanes on I-90 Bridge are literally wide open to traffic.  Yet the video narrative describes East Link operation as three or four car trains every 8 to 10 minutes.  Assuming the 74-seat cars can accommodate an average of 150 riders gives a peak capacity of 4500 pph in each direction, a fraction of what’s needed to reduce cross-lake congestion.

Sound Transit initially proposed using East Link to replace all the I-90 bus routes into Seattle. 40,000 of the projected 50,000 riders were bus riders transferring at the South Bellevue and Mercer Island light rail stations.  The fact that it would take nearly 4 ½ hours each morning and afternoon to accommodate the 20,000 commuters presumably led to their dropping plans to transfer transit riders at Mercer Island.  (The still claim 50,000 daily riders by 2030)

As a result, the only access to even this limited capacity for the vast majority of I-90 corridor commuters will be the South Bellevue P&R station.  Those attempting to do so either driving or riding on buses will have to endure the miles of congestion both coming and going along the I-90 corridor.  East Link will also do absolutely nothing to reduce the miles-long congestion in I-90 lanes going to I-405. 

The limited number of buses Sound Transit may chose to route to the P&R rather than into Seattle will also have a miniscule if any affect on I-90 Bridge outer roadway congestion.  Many of those on routes forced to transfer at South Bellevue will likely chose to “drive rather than ride” to avoid the hassle of transferring to and from likely crowded light rail trains.

Sound Transit attempts to garner eastside support for ST 3 to fund East Link are almost laughable.  What initially was a separate Totem Lake to Issaquah light rail system has evolved into a $2.3 Billion for Issaquah to East Gate to Bellevue light rail and $307 million for light rail between South Kirkland and Bellevue. The fact that neither light rail connection will begin operation until 2041 would seem to “diminish” their appeal.   (The "humor" is the fact Sound Transit is attempting to garner Issaquah support by proposing to spend $2.3 billion so residents can ride light rail to Bellevue in 2041 while doing absolutely nothing to reduce the congestion they currently face during the commute along I-90 corridor into Seattle.)

ST3 approval will allow Sound Transit to continue with an East Link light rail system that will devastate the route into Bellevue, increase rather than decrease I-90 Bridge congestion, and do nothing to ease any of the congestion most eastside commuters currently encounter.   The deceit Sound Transit uses to garner support meets my definition of "fraud" rather than mere stupidity.   

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