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.

Monday, November 14, 2016

ST3 "No's" Should Demand Audit

I wrote the following post since recent articles in the Times showed a "lack of interest" in an audit

ST3 “No’s” Should Demand Audit,

Many of those who read the Seattle Times, Nov 12th B1 page article headline, “Planned light-rail areas backed ST3” would assume ST3 was approved because voters were eager to have light rail extended to their area.  Those who did would be wrong!  ST3 was approved because nearly 70% of Seattle residents voted for it.   Seattleites who did so must be very “patient” (or not very bright) since residents there will have to wait until 2030 for light rail service to West Seattle and 2035 for the Ballard link. 

King County, however, only approved ST3 by 58% to 42% indicating ST3 was far less popular outside Seattle.  (The Times "neglected" to even mention the Mercer Island vote.)  Pierce and Snohomish Counties combined, where the vast majority of the extension money will be spent, rejected ST3 with 53% voting against approval.  Apparently large numbers of voters had very real concerns.   One way to reconcile those concerns would be to have an independent audit.  The results of the last state Sound Transit audit were reported in an Oct 25, 2012 Seattle Times article,  “Sound Transit gets mixed reviews in state audit”.   A more recent audit is certainly needed. 

Yet, all of the subsequent audits appear to be “internal” potentially reflecting Sound Transit’s “optimism” for future light rail operation.  Thus, Sammamish, Newcastle, Renton and others opposed to ST3 should be able to require Sound Transit have an independent review of whether the billions spent on  “Prop 1 and beyond” light rail extensions will significantly reduce congestion and what anticipated subsidies will be required to cover the shortfall between fare box revenue and operating costs for the longer routes.  (Presumably even those who approved ST3 would like to be “reassured”.)

While both Pierce and Snohomish cities should advocate for the audit, ST3, at least over the short term, will have minimal impact on their residents.  East Link, however, beginning in January will change the lives of eastside residents and commuters forever.   They first close the south Bellevue P&R lot and begin construction along Bellevue Way.   Later in the year they intend to close the Overlake T/C and the I-90 Bridge center roadway.   Sound Transit’s attempts to mitigate the impact can only charitably be called “lacking”.  

Common sense demands Sound Transit delay those actions until the audit has been completed.  Not only should the audit deal with the capacity and operating deficit, it should also consider the following issues of particular interest to east side residents.

1)       Has Sound Transit completed an I-90 Bridge design that satisfies floating bridge/light rail compatibility concerns?
2)       Will the 4th lanes added to the I-90 Bridge outer roadway enable it to accommodate all cross-lake vehicles?
3)       Will East Link have the capacity to accommodate current and future I-90 cross-lake transit demands?  
4)       How valid is Sound Transit’s claim East Link noise will have de minimis impact on the Mercer Slough Park as required by federal environmental law?

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) would seem to have both the expertise and the background for dealing with the issues in the most expeditious manner.  It’s highly unlikely that any delays for the audit will significantly affect the 2023 debut.

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