Tuesday night’s open house and public hearing for Sound Transit’s East Link’s SDEIS was nothing more than the perennial ST bashing exercise. The public hearing was laden with several comments on why ST is a bad government bureaucracy yet there was the sole proviso that the agency could be magically forgiven for its sins if it were to choose B7 instead. The meeting was very negative from the standpoint of a B2/B3 supporter but likely a party for B7 supporters, who criticized Sound Transit on everything from Central Link’s delayed opening to Bellevue councilmember Grant Degginger’s “conflict of interest.”
Things got heated early as one B7 supporter began dropping expletives and loudly accosting Sound Transit employees during the open house, claiming that no one would stay in the Bellevue Club’s hotel if a train would be screeching by all evening. His rampage was stopped only by a fellow Bellevue resident, who calmly reprimanded him for his foul mouth. Aside from the isolated commotion, the rest of the open house maintained composure and went on unscathed, sporting the usual set up of various stations staffed by ST employees.
More below the jump.
According to ST estimates, there were roughly 130 in attendance, a large portion of which was an organized turnout from B7 supporters. Out of the roughly 20 or so speakers that testified, approximately half spoke either: in favor of B7, in favor of Bellevue’s fiscally responsible study, against B2M, against Sound Transit, or against Link in general. Whichever way the cards were played, a large amount of the rhetoric was more about ST’s “failure” as an agency and less about the actual merits of B7. The heavily partisan crowd made sure to reward every B7 supporter at the podium with applause.
There was no shortage of misleading commentary as well. One gentleman made the oft-used and bold claim that Link would only carry 2% of trips in and out of Downtown Bellevue (conveniently ignoring a fair corridor-level time-competitive comparison). Another argued that B2M would be creating a whole “new transportation corridor” in lieu of using an existing one (built specifically for freight, mind you), but later plainly stating that this supposed “new transportation corridor” is currently used by thousands of cars daily.
Unfortunately, would-be valid concerns of things like noise impacts nastily turned into ideological rhetoric. The second commenter, the same who caused the ruckus earlier during the open house, went on to assert that light rail would “destroy our way of life!” One woman, from the pro-B7 Build a Better Bellevue, claimed light rail is too inefficient (but B7 would solve that!). She later stated that B7’s crossing of Mercer Slough would create known impacts, a much better alternative to B2M’s “unknown lasting impacts.” Right. I’m not sure direct wetland impacts are ever better than buffer impacts, known or unknown.
The evening wasn’t a total knockout for B2M supporters. Several people did speak in favor of the agency’s preferred alignment and urged moving forward on the planning process. Those who did testify as such came across as far less hostile and more accommodating on valid issues like noise and traffic impacts. There were a few neutral testimonies as well– a student representative from Bellevue College asked ST to consider serving the college with East Link, though it’s been determined decades ago that that won’t happen.
Sound Transit is still soliciting public comments for the SDEIS until January 10th of next year. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the East Link goings-on, you can read a rundown summary here.