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, February 16, 2017

Sound Transit’s Absurd Response to RCW Compliance Concerns

An earlier post included the following letter concerning Sound Transit’s “apparent” failure to comply with Revised Code of Washington (RCW) regarding planning for their light rail spine.

Dear Attorney General Ferguson,

The Revised Code of Washington RCW 81.104.100 details the code requirement for high capacity transit system planning.  RCW 81.104.00 (2) and section (b) are shown below:

(2) High capacity transportation system planning is the detailed evaluation of a range of high capacity transportation system options, including: Do nothing, low capital, and ranges of higher capital facilities.  High capacity transportation system planning shall proceed as follows:

(b) Development of options. Options to be studied shall be developed to ensure an appropriate range of technologies and service policies can be evaluated. A do-nothing option and a low capital option that maximizes the current system shall be developed. 

Sound Transit’s 2008 Draft Environment Impact Statement DEIS included a “no build” option for their East Link light rail proposal, presumably their response for a “Do nothing, low capital option”.  It included adding 4th lanes to the I-90 Bridge outer roadways and maintaining current procedure, reversing the two center roadways for morning and afternoon commutes.  They apparently never considered initiating permanent inbound and outbound bus rapid transit (BRT) only lanes on the center roadway.  Doing so would have provided “low capital” cross-lake capacity far exceeding light rail.

There is also no indication Sound Transit ever considered BRT use of limited access HOV lanes along the I-5 corridor.  Again, an option that should have been considered as a “do nothing, low capital,” response to the RCW.  Especially in view of the Seattle Downtown Transit Tunnel limitations on light rail capacity.

Surely your office has a responsibility to require Sound Transit comply with the RCW.

The Attorney General’s Office response included the following:

We referred your complaint to the following agency. Please contact the identified agency directly with questions about the status of your complaint.  

Sound Transit Board of Directors
c/o Board Administrator
401 Jackson S
Seattle, WA 98104

I wasn't "surprised" Attorney General Ferguson refused to respond as he has done so earlier when I contacted his office regarding WSDOT lawyers claims about I-90 outer roadway capacity and light rail noise impact on Mercer Slough Park.  I was “surprised” Sound Transit chose to respond since they had  ignored countless emails concerning their “Prop 1 and Beyond” extensions.  Apparently the Attorney General’s letter “persuaded them’.  What was even more of a “surprise” was the below response (the italics are mine).

Dear Mr. Hirt,

Sound Transit is in receipt of a complaint you filed with the Attorney General’s office asserting that Sound Transit failed to comply with RCW 81.104.100 in the development of options for the 1-90 Project.

As you noted in your complaint, Chapter 81.104 RCW requires development of a high capacity transportation system plan, and RCW 81.104.100 specifically sets forth the requirements that must be included in that system-wide plan. Sound Transit developed draft and final system plans that complied with these requirements and included extensive public outreach from 2005 to 2008. Draft and final supplemental environmental impact statements (EISs) on the updated system-wide plan were prepared in 2004 and 2005 respectively. The decision to implement East Link light rail was made as part of Sound Transit 2 (ST2), the system plan that was adopted by the Sound Transit Board and authorized by voters in Sound Transit’s taxing district in 2008.

Project level reviews are not subject to the requirements in RCW 81.104.100. As noted in your complaint, the project level review of the East Link project did include a no-build option. Your presumption that this was due to the requirement in RCW 81.104.100(2)(b) is not correct. As indicated above, this statutory requirement applies to system-wide plans, not project level reviews.

HOV lanes on 1-90 were evaluated as part of the 1-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV project (also known as R8A]. This project is not a part of the East Link project. Draft and final EISs were prepared for the project in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Your assertion that Sound Transit’s failure to consider bus rapid transit (BRT) use of the center roadway failed to meet the statutory requirement outlined in 81.104.100(2](b) is misplaced. As noted above, the cited statute does not apply to project level reviews. In addition, the project did evaluate conversion of the center roadway to two-way bus and operation, among other alternatives. The project to build chosen by the Sound Transit Board for the project includes lanes on the outer roadways of and the work to add those lanes will be completed this year.  

Amy Joe Pearsall
Senior Legal Counsel

Their response should not have been a “surprise", as it typifies the level of “competence” Sound Transit has shown over the last several years with their "Prop 1 and Beyond" light rail extensions as a way to deal with the area's transportation problems.  First of all my “complaint” concerned Sound Transit’s apparent failure to comply with the RCW planning requirements for the entire light rail spine.  There has never been any indication Sound Transit ever considered bus rapid transit (BRT) along a limited access HOV lane as a “low-cost” alternative to the Central Link extension now planned from Everett to Tacoma.  Money that could have been spent adding thousands of P&R stalls for access to BRT has instead been spent on light rail extensions whose capacity will be limited by the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to a fraction of potential BRT capacity. 

Second the “legal council” neglected to refer to any documentation showing Sound Transit “complied with these (RCW) requirements” for planning for any of the light rail spine extensions that are presumably part of the "system wide" plan.  (What difference does it make as to how ”the decision to implement East Link light rail was made” if they ignored the RCW 81.04.100 planning requirements?)   Even more absurd, the “legal council” claims East Link is not required to meet RCW 81.104. 100(2)(b) since "this statutory requirement applies to system wide plans, not project level reviews".

 It’s not clear why East Link is a “Project Level” review rather than a “System Wide” project.  Also what is Sound Transit’s basis for claiming “Project Level reviews are not subject to RCW81.104.100(2)(b)".  If, as the letter claims, ”project did evaluate conversion of the center roadway to two-way bus”, why did they do so, and why wasn’t it considered as the “no build” option in the 2008 DEIS?

Again, the bottom line is the Sound Transit letter exemplifies their level of “competence” when it comes to dealing with the area’s transportation problems.  They simply ignore the fact they failed to comply with RCW on the light rail spine between Everett and Tacoma.  Maybe they considered it another “Project Level Review”.   Only a Dow Constantine led Sound Transit Board would claim East Link does not have to meet the RCW.  The entire area will pay a heavy price if they are allowed to continue.

P.S. 2/18/17
I decided to send the following to Attorney General Ferguson. I will post his response if he chooses to do so.

Dear Attorney General Ferguson,
As your office suggested the Sound Transit Lead Legal Council responded to my concerns about their apparent failure to comply with RCW 81.104.00 (2) (b) regarding planning for their light rail spine.  Does your office concur with the following response?

Project level reviews are not subject to the requirements in RCW 81.104.100. As noted in your complaint, the project level review of the East Link project did include no-build option. Your presumption that this was due to the requirement in RCW 81.104.100(2)(b) is not correct. As indicated above, this statutory requirement applies to system-wide plans, not project level reviews.

Bill Hirt

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