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, February 22, 2017

MI Should Demand SOV Access Lane on ICW Onramp.

The Bellevue Patch article concerning Sound Transit’s response to Mercer Island’s intent to sue over SOV access to westbound I-90 via Island Crest Way typifies Sound Transit’s approach to “disputes” claiming: 

"It is highly regrettable that the City of Mercer Island is now attempting to delay the project in mid-construction," Rogoff said in a statement released Tuesday. "Neither the Washington State Department of Transportation nor Sound Transit are empowered to reverse the Federal Highway Administration’s decisions regarding access by single-occupant Mercer Island traffic to the new HOV lanes across Lake Washington."

Sound Transit justified their claim with the following

"In 2004 all of the parties to the 1976 agreement and Sound Transit signed an amendment establishing plans for constructing high capacity transit in the center lanes," Sound Transit said in a statement. "That conversion was stipulated to occur following the addition of one new HOV lane in each direction to the outer roadways. The 2004 amendment did not identify Mercer Island SOV access to the new HOV lanes as a project component, but instead provided that transportation studies would be used to determine if the changes to I-90 would cause a loss of mobility to and from Mercer Island and that WSDOT satisfactorily address any such loss."

However Rogoff “neglected” to mention a 2006 letter from the Governor’s Office & WSDOT to MI reconfirmed MI residents should be permitted HOV access until converted to HOT.  That commitment was later reconfirmed in a 2007 letter.   It was not clear how the WSDOT intended to implement allowing MI SOV access to I-90 HOV lanes. The fact both letters preceded the 2008 East Link vote, when Sound Transit needed MI votes, “may” have influenced their “commitment”.  

Even after the vote Sound Transit’s 2011 East Link Final EIS “Confirmed that any changes to the HOV lane eligibility including MI SOV use, to be addressed in future analysis, approval or agreement”.  It’s “unfortunate” neither WSDOT, nor Sound Transit, nor MI bothered to check with the FHWA about SOV access to I-90 HOV until March 2016.  Mayor Bassett’s June presentation to the FHWA advocating for MI SOV resulted in an August FHWA response citing federal prohibition on SOV traffic for any part of the HOV ramps or lanes. 

The Patch article included Sound Transit’s response to their commitments of “future analysis, approval or agreement concerning MI SOV access to I-90 HOV lane”

 “Sound Transit says that it has tried to work with Mercer Island and WSDOT to determine if loss of SOV access will harm mobility on the island, taking into account that light rail would reduce traffic. 

It doesn’t take much “work” to determine loss of SOV access will “harm mobility on the island”.  MI isn’t even asking for HOV access on I-90 Bridge, only westbound access to I-90 via Island Crest Way for single-occupancy vehicles.   Sound Transit could have addressed that problem by doing what was necessary to add a controlled SOV lane to the ICW access.  They surely could have done so as part of adding the 4th lanes to the outer bridge roadways.  Providing an additional controlled SOV onramp would ease MI central area access problems. (The reality is easier access to I-90 will inevitably still require MI commuters as well as all cross-lake commuters to choose between expensive HOT fees or heavy congestion on GP lanes.)

Instead Sound Transit makes the truly absurd argument “light rail would reduce traffic”.   They continue to ignore the fact their East Link extension website video depicts operation as “one three-or-four car every 8-10 minutes”, a fraction of what’s needed to meet current transit demand let alone future growth.  East Link trains will be full well before they even reach MI station during most of the commute.

The bottom line is MI should demand Sound Transit add the SOV lane to ICW access prior to allowing them to proceed with East Link.  The fact there seems to be some concern as to whether Sound Transits I-90 bridge design can accommodate light rail trains and outer roadway capacity may make any delay because of the added lane less "onerous".

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