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, August 7, 2017

County Executive “Hobson’s Choice”

(My last post before I spend the next 15 days on a long  planned trip through national parks)

First I want to thank those whose support has allowed my candidacy for King County Executive to continue to the general election this fall.  When I filed in May I had no idea I’d be Dow Constantine’s opponent.  As it is, the voters this fall will have a “Hobson’s choice” between one whose only “qualification” is a willingness to pay the $2266.55 filing fee to use the Voter’s Pamphlet to warn voters Sound Transit is planning to spend $54B on "Prop 1 and Beyond" light rail extensions that will do absolutely nothing to reduce the area’s roadway congestion.

The other choice is the current County Executive who has failed in his principle responsibility: to provide a Sound Transit board capable of implementing an effective public transportation system.   Their light rail spine will do absolutely nothing to increase transit capacity into Seattle on I-5 and their confiscation of the I-90 Bridge center roadway will inevitably lead to gridlock on bridge outer roadway lanes. 

It's a choice between a candidate who has spent six years (and six candidacies) attracting nearly 100,000 views of over 420 posts on this blog, most of which attempted to expose Sound Transit's  failure to effectively address the area''s roadway congestion.  And an incumbent who has spent those years lying about what light rail would cost (e.g. car tab tax) and making totally absurd claims about expected ridership.

Even a fraction of Sound Transit’s promised ST3 extension ridership will fill the "spine's" capacity before the trains ever reach UW or SeaTac; effectively ending access for those currently riding.  The vast majority of I-90 corridor commuters won’t have access to East Link, inevitably making their commute into Seattle a choice between very expensive HOT fares or gridlock on GP lanes. The entire area will face a financial “black hole” from the huge increases in operating costs for the longer routes with no increase in capacity and fare box revenue. 

It’s also the choice between a candidate whose 2nd place in the August primary has been ignored by the Seattle Times and Bellevue Reporter despite receiving 49,330 (as of 8/07) votes without spending a “dime” campaigning, and an incumbent whose campaign spent $820,000 of  $1.200,000 in contributions; much of which “may be” from construction companies and their labor unions in anticipation of lucrative light rail construction contracts. 

It’s a choice between one who recognizes the folly of routing the light rail spine through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT).  A PSRC 2004 “Technical Workbook, Central Puget Sound Region, High Capacity Transit Corridor Assessment” evaluated several alternate ways to meet the area's transit needs.  It concluded (Page 57) the DSTT limited Light Rail “capacities to be at a maximum of 8,880 riders per hour in each direction”.    The $54 billion spent on ST3 “Prop 1 and Beyond” light rail extensions will do nothing to increase that capacity into Seattle, making a mockery of any rational cost/benefit analysis.  Any riders attracted will simply displace riders nearer Seattle. 

The incumbent’s Sound Transit cited this study in the 2008 East Link DEIS preface; “the cross-lake corridor connecting the urban centers of Seattle, Bellevue Overlake and Redmond had the highest potential for near-term development of high-capacity transit (HCT)”.  Yet a recent “Google Search” for the study got the following response “We did not find results for: ‘Technical Workbook, Central Puget Sound Region, High Capacity Transit Corridor Assessment’”.    I’ll leave it to others to conclude if the incumbent was involved in that "disappearance".

It’s a choice between a candidate who also recognizes the folly of spending $3.6B confiscating the I-90 Bridge center roadway for light rail with half the DSTT capacity.   That a Sept 2004 FHWA Record of Decision stipulated the I-90 Bridge center roadway was still needed for vehicles with the R-8A configuration which added the HOV lane to bridge outer roadways.  

Again, the vast majority of I-90 corridor commuters, who will never have access to East Link, will be forced to choose between very expensive HOT fares on HOV lanes or gridlock on GP lanes that will surely worsen with future growth.   That East Link also eliminates the only viable way to meet cross-lake transit demand; inbound and outbound bus-only lanes on center roadway (or another bridge). 

Meanwhile the incumbent’s Sound Transit never considered that option, violating the Revised Code of Washington regarding lower cost HCT options.   They claim they'll be able to use East Link to replace cross-lake buses, reducing cross-lake congestion.   Current cross-lake bus routes will be terminated at South Bellevue or Mercer Island light rail stations.  (The 2008 DEIS claimed East Link would increase cross-lake transit capacity by 60%.)  However during peak commute East Link will have the capacity to accommodate riders from about 50 buses an hour, and that’s only if the trains arrive empty at the stations.  Any HOV improvements because of fewer I-90 buses will be minuscule at best.  

Again, the incumbent’s Sound Transit Board has already closed two east side P&R lots, ending transit access to hundreds of east side commuters, disrupted those who live or commute along route into Bellevue and closed the I-90 Bridge center roadway, extending the current miles-long I-90 corridor congestion across the bridge outer roadways. 

It should have never gotten this far.  Any competent transportation journalist should have recognized the DSTT limitations on light rail spine capacity.  Yet the Seattle Times cheered ST3 despite conceding it will do little to reduce congestion, arguing the way to reduce congestion was to make travel more expensive by imposing tolls.   

The WSDOT and FHWA could have prevented Sound Transit from closing I-90 Bridge center roadway, inevitably leading to gridlock on an interstate highway bridge outer roadway lanes.  Instead the WSDOT has already indicated their solution will be to impose HOT fares on outer roadway HOV lanes.

The State’s Attorney General could have stopped the "Prop 1 and Beyond” light rail extensions because they clearly violated the RCW 81.104.100 requiring any high capacity transit (HCT) system planning consider lower costs options.  Sound Transit refused to consider inbound and outbound BRT lanes costing a fraction of light rail for the I-90 Bridge center roadway.

The Mercer Island City Council had more than ample reasons to use the permitting process to stop East Link.  Instead they acquiesced to Sound Transit effectively ending Islander access to reasonable commutes into Seattle.

The Bellevue City Council had even more reason to use permitting process to stop East Link.  They could have used it to insist Sound Transit consider two-way BRT on I-90 Bridge center roadway; effectively ending East Link.  Doing so would have avoided the closure of two P&R lots ending access to transit for many commuters.  They would have avoided the 6 years of disruption for those who live or commute along the route into Bellevue; ending forever the quiet solitude of the Mercer Slough Park.    And, most important, they could've prevented the Sound Transit debacle of spending $3.6 billion for a light rail system with the capacity of about 50 buses an hour, the vast majority of cross-lake commuters will never have access to.

Again, the vote the fall will be a "Hobson's Choice" between someone who is "never" going to win and an incumbent whose policies will waste billions on a fatally flawed transit system.  It's bad enough Sound Transit got this far.  Allowing them to precede when the current roadways are in such dire need of additional capacity requiring billions for added lanes gives a whole new meaning to "unconscionable".    

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