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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

East Link Mercer Slough Impact far Beyond Mere Encroachment

The Seattle Times Monday 15th headline “Light-rail project making tracks along beloved slough” is another example of the Bellevue City Council’s willingness to go along with an East Link light rail system that will be a disaster not only for commuters, but the entire eastside.   (It's also an example of the Seattle Times failure to recognize the encroachment issue is just part of the problem.)  

It should have never gotten this far.  Sound Transit’s 2008 East Link Project DEIS promises for light rail capacity were sheer fantasy.  However, it did include the following in section ES.9 “Other Environmental Considerations”

Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act protects parks and recreation areas, historic sites, and waterfowl and wildlife refuges that may be affected by a project with US Department of Transportation (DOT) involvement.  When the DOT determines that there is a transportation use of a section 4(f) property if the impact is de minimis after avoidance, minimization, and mitigation, then an analysis of avoidance alternatives is not required.

The Mercer Slough Park surely qualifies as needing protection from light rail.  Sound Transit could have satisfied the environmental laws by tunneling between I-90 into Bellevue.  Yet neither Bellevue nor Sound Transit even bothered to consider that alternative.  

Instead the two agreed to portray light rail impacts as “de minimis”.  Sound Transit did so by submitting the East Link Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact (SDEIS) document to the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration.  The FTA and FHA used that document as the basis for their approval via a Record of Decision (ROD) later that year.

It included Chapter 3, "Environmental Consequences" regarding the current light rail route into Bellevue:

1)  Preferred Alternative B2M would not impact noise levels in the park.
2)  Preferred Alternative B2M would not substantially affect park use, the park’s features, activities, and attributes, or diminish the park’s value.    

Sound Transit presumably used that same document to demonstrate compliance with the State environmental Policy Act (SEPA).  Given these inputs about lack of light rail noise impact, it’s no surprise the FTA, FHA, and SEPA all agreed East Link would comply with federal environmental law (and presumably similar state law). 

At the same time they were making these claims for “de minimis” noise levels the two were negotiating on the need to spend millions shielding the properties along Bellevue Way and 112th Ave. They included:

1) Sound Wall on structure    
2) Sound wall on west side of tracks (up to 12 ft high)
3) Sound insulation, if required

Surely the admitted need to spend millions shielding homes across a major roadway and hundreds of feet away from tracks belied their claim light rail noise impact on Mercer Slough would be de minims.  Yet the Bellevue City Council used the same rationale for approving the Shore Lines permits Sound Transit needed. 

Despite Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Grey’s claim “We’ve been incredibly diligent about protecting the slough” they’ve done absolutely nothing to protect the slough from the light rail noise.

The bottom line is that while the loss of land and trees is bad enough, the fact the two made a mockery of the environmental law means East Link will end forever the quiet solitude of the slough. 

It’s just another reason why voters should reject ST3 this fall.  The vote this fall, six years before they begin “beyond Prop 1” light rail extensions, suggests the loss of ST3 funds could put East Link funding in jeopardy.   Without ST3 light rail may not "be coming" after all.

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