Last Sunday, KING 5 TV’s Up Front with Robert Mak discussed the East Link debate in Bellevue, covering things like conflict of interest accusations, B7-Revised, the I-90 lawsuit, and Build a Better Bellevue’s “expert-written” report alleging that Sound Transit jacked up the costs of B7.  For the most part, the program does a fair job of bringing more exposure to the issue.  Nonetheless, you can still detect a pretty shallow understanding that doesn’t reflect the deeper dynamics of the debate, like how a significant portion of South Bellevue residents actually oppose B7.

If you missed the show, I’ve attached the video of the full program above.  Some thoughts below the jump.

A bulk of the show was spent covering the pro-B7 Build a Better Bellevue’s allegations that Sound Transit gouged B7 costs unnecessarily, just to make it “look bad.”  ST is planning to respond to these allegations as part of the ‘FAQ’ section of the EIS when it’s publicly released later this year.  Some of them are pretty ridiculous, including a claim that the multi-use trail along B7 was an unnecessary element intentionally put in by ST to add costs.

The facts alone prove poor research done on BBB’s part.  Federal railbanking laws actually require that a trail be put along the BNSF corridor to act as a ‘preservation easement,’ if you will, in case freight service were ever to be restored.  Joe Rossman, the BBB representative who was interviewed, said that it will be a “cold day in hell” when that happens.  Ironically though, when Kevin Wallace was initially concocting his plans for B7-Revised, he acknowledged the importance of the corridor’s railbank status.  It shouldn’t go without mentioning that a rails-to-trails conversion is a high priority between the King County-Port of Seattle partnership.

Probably the ugliest quote that stood out in the show came from Rossman, who said something to the effect of light rail making it easier for “folks who are not always welcome” to get to Bellevue.  Yikes.  Thankfully, VeloBusDriver, an STB regular, has already jumped on it:

This quote neatly encapsulates one of the more offensive and incoherent arguments I hear against light rail.  According to Build a Better Bellevue, Sound Transit’s East Link will make it easier for miscreants, from the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Seattle, to descend in hordes upon our pristine shores.  Being a user of transit as well as a bus driver, I can authoritatively say that this line of thinking is complete bunk.

I don’t have anything to add to VeloBusDriver’s nice summation of the matter except to say that Rossman’s comments will probably come back to bite BBB, particularly after Kemper Freeman’s unflattering admission about Southcenter customers a few years back.  Nonetheless, I do acknowledge that there are plenty of other reasons why people choose to support B7 so it would be unfair to make sweeping generalizations.  Still, it’s pretty clear that Rossman’s slip will be a poor reflection on his organization.

The best comment of the program, however, goes to councilwoman Claudia Balducci’s response to the conflict of interest accusation of her employment for King County:

Well, I work for the county jail system.  And jails and transit don’t have a whole lot in common.  We do have a van service.  We transport inmates from place to place.

Okay, that clears things up.  From some of the claims made by BBB, you’d think the King County Jail were the ones building East Link.  But seeing as they do believe that light rail happens to transport criminals and other unwelcome figures, I guess it explains the reasoning behind accusing Balducci for working for the jail system.  The transport-criminals-by-transit agenda… I would have never made the connection otherwise.

58 Replies to “King 5’s Up Front covers light rail in Bellevue”

  1. Question:

    Does anybody know if WSDOT would be responsible for building a railroad bridge over I-405 if a railroad wanted to restart rail service? The program indicates that the railroad would be responsible but I always thought it was WSDOT since they demolished the tunnel.

    1. Well, what I found was this (link is above)…

      If King County purchases all or part of the rail corridor and a trail system is constructed, a pedestrian bridge across Wilburton would be provided by WSDOT at a cost of about $5 million.

      If BNSF, King County or other future entities plan to restore rail use – either freight or passenger – a rail bridge, appropriate for rail use, could be constructed across Wilburton.

      and further down: Note – BNSF owns the crossing and the freeway is on easement.

      Sounds like WSDOT might be on the hook for a rail bridge if the new owners requested one, but they’re hoping to get by with a cheaper pedestrian bridge.

      1. Surrey Downs is not a gated community – All of its streets are owned and maintained by the City of Bellevue. I believe most of the gated communities in the Seattle area are actually within the city of Seattle – not the suburbs. Broadmoor is the most well known. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any over here although I suspect they exist.

        While I happily pounced on this quote from BBB, let’s not turn this into a Bellevue = bad, Seattle = good thread. It’s not productive and was not my intent. Neighbors I have discussed this issue with find the whole “transit brings bad people” argument just as ridiculous as all of us here.

    1. Isn’t that what the current plan actually does?! Turn Surrey Downs into one of the few Bellevue neighborhoods with easy light rail access?

    1. I thought Kevin Wallace’s comments and demeanor were a lot more disturbing than Mr. Rossman’s quasi-bigoted remarks. Wallance has launched an intentional campaign of petty, personal attacks and conspiracy theories. Rossman is definitely operating from a position of pure suburban isolation & naivety.

  2. I have to say, I felt like all the hype for this UpFront episode was a big let down. Sure, they had two clips from SoundTransit, two from Balducci, two from Wallace, and two from Rossman, but it really was fairly a thin episode for all the controversy. VeloBusDriver had a great blog entry about the episode.

  3. I think the greatest quote comes from the second half; former Mercer Island mayor Jim Horn says:

    What kind of a highway system would you have if all across this land any municipality could come in and say “Oh I wanna take two lanes of your highway and I got a more important use of it than for transportation purposes”

    If Mr. Horn can explain to me how light rail trans moving people across the bridge is not a transportation purpose, I have a $100 bill with his name on it.

    1. That was a real head-scratcher for me too. In addition, I don’t think the segment made clear that both mainline bridges were getting an additional HOV lane…

    2. Horn, Not as bad? I think not.

      Jim Horn is chair of the Eastside Transportation Association, which is against light rail. He and the ETA are a few of the plaintiffs, along with Kemper Freeman in the lawsuit challenging light rail on I-90. Talmadge, their attorney, also has a history of ST-opposition.

      I didn’t see KING5 mention Kemper Freeman, who’s heading this effort.

      Here’s a photo of the anti-light rail group, conveniently convened at Kemper Freeman’s offices, after the defeat of 2007 Prop 1.

      1. What’s worse is that Horn was there in 1976, on the Mercer Island city council, when the agreement was signed giving priority use of the center lanes to transit. He knows full-well that the only reason Seattle agreed to expanding I-90 was the agreement that the center lanes would be reserved for transit and could later be converted to HCT. Other people who were present at the time and worked on the agreement have said that by “transit” it was meant “rail transit” and there was no confusion as to the fact that the 2 center lanes would ultimately be used for rail. There’s a lot of background information on the I-90 agreement in this document from Sound Transit, I think it clearly shows that Jim Horn and his brethren are flat wrong.

        http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/about/board/Discussion%20Items/2009/090723%20Valuation%20doc.pdf

      2. I was speaking about how they seem on the television program, I know well who Horn is. Horn comes off fairly ridiculously, clearly not telling a consistent story (light rail isn’t transportation? wha?) and trying to mislead people. Thus, cogger (flatterer, deceiver). A fool might fall for it, but it’s a lie.

        Rosmann seems unaware that his opinion is not widely shared or even an acceptable one to say out loud (light rail brings what?). Thus he is incapable of deception; there’s no need to deceive because in his own mind his opinions are justly held.

  4. The whole light-rail-will-bring-bad-people argument is common. I have an aunt who lives outside of Baltimore and is quite racist. She told me that “the blacks from Baltimore City” use light rail to burglarize the suburban community neighborhoods along the line there. She’s a bitter old idiot, but in her circle of friends, that story is gospel. I’ve heard the same garbage about MARTA from Atlantans.

    They couldn’t be quite that obvious about their racism here, but that’s what that quote is all about.

    1. Hate to say this, but in the case of the Northshore of Chicago, it is true statement that a significant percentage of the people caught burglarizing homes in Wilmette came there on the Purple line from Chicago and Evanston.

      1. That’s not a fault of the light rail line, it’s a fault of the police not providing adequate service where it’s needed.

      2. Can you cite your source for this “true statement”? One would think that if it were really that big of a deal it would be all over the google, but not a peep that I could find,

        The idea if using light rail to burgle sounds silly to me, because you really couldn’t steal that much: you’d be limited to what you could put in a backpack, which leaves out a lot of big ticket items that are the usual targets.

      3. I wonder what percentage use automobiles? Should we not build freeways because they might be used for nefarious purposes by a few?

      4. As a former Rogers Park resident, I really am curious about the facts and stats. What percentage? And for how long?

        The CTA Wilmette line, which is really “heavy rail”, goes back more than fifty years, meaning that most of the current residents either moved there long after it was built or have lived with it for decades. Everybody there could afford to live elsewhere.

        If a rail line is always a corridor for crime, why hasn’t Wilmette always been blighted?

        Mark Dublin

      5. This is a commonly held opinion in Atlanta. I’ve heard quite a few people ‘joke’ that MARTA stands for Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta. Kinda sad. Then again most of the suburban stops I’ve seen are surrounded by huge parking decks so they don’t feel that safe.

      6. Did not mean to imply that the train to Wilmette is the cause of all of Wilmette’s crime. It simply makes it convenient for desperate people to get to and from the area. The major things being taken are wallets, bikes, jewelry and cash either out of cars or poorly secured homes. (Wilmette Police Report 2005) Things that can be carried easily and concealed.

        I have an inquiry into one of the local papers that wrote about crime trends on the Northshore to see about quantifying this assertion. I’ll follow up if I hear more. Meanwhile I’ll back off my “true statement” to one of “hearsay” because I heard this from Wilmette residents who mentioned some particular cases but obviously I can’t recall the particulars.

        That being said, it was not my intention to write this to support BBB’s paranoia about crime because criminals will travel by any means they can to get the job done. And as has been noted on this blog, crime, especially violent crime seems to be happening with increasing frequency in the suburban communities.

    2. In fairness to Surrey Downs, their concern isn’t so much about what kind of people Link will bring, so much as a train will be blasting through the middle of their neighborhood ever 10 minutes.

      1. On my walk north from South Bellevue Park and Ride to Downtown Bellevue Sunday, it seemed to me that Eastlink will run on an arterial street, along the east side of the Surrey Downs neighborhood.

        On the east side of the street are office buildings and hotels, surrounded by wide parking lots.

        If the tracks are properly designed, criticism will be that trains are dangerous because they’re too quiet.

        I suggest that everybody interested in Eastlink take the same walk I did. It’s extremely pretty. Look on the west side of 12th for the rock that says “Surrey Downs” on it. See for yourself if you think light rail would make you not want to live there.

        Mark Dublin

  5. I watched the episode and generally agree with Sherwin. I was disappointed that the show did not go the entire half an hour, that certainly would have helped them to have gone deeper and looked at the issues more.

  6. Rossmann: “Cold day in hell” that freight service will return to the Eastside rail line.

    I suppose Rosmann knows nothing about freight rail or how freight is transported in this country. I suppose he thinks the economy is never going to recover and railroads might not need additional capacity.

    1. I think that if the economy recovered, it would still be cheaper to make equivalent improvements to the BNSF mainline than to reopen the eastside line.

      1. That still doesn’t change the fact that the agreement around the rail line obligates Sound Transit to provide space for a trail and possible restoration of rail service if they use any of the ROW.

      2. On the contrary, my point is that it’s unlikely that those obligations will ever come to pass.

      3. Well King County is going to want to build a continuous trail with no gaps and therefore will want any B7 alignment to provide space for it. Furthermore the agreement with the port and the Federal railbanking law mean ROW for possible restoration of rail service will need to be preserved.

        While I don’t think it is likely freight rail service will come back I bristle at the suggestion ST tried to deliberately raise the cost of B7 vs B2M.

    2. Rossman is apparently ignorant of the fact that a group is presently applying to establish a commuter/freight rail business from Bellevue northward on the BNSF line. They want to run DMU units on an upgraded set of rails. They are quite confidenct they can have the system up and running with only about 3 months construction time, moving commuters from Snohomish south through Woodinville and into Bellevue. This proposal complicates the ST use of the BNSF corridor through the Wilburton/Hospital district segment, and might have been a reason to displace East Link. Guess who their landlord is (where their offices are located)?

      1. At one of the East Link meetings at Bellevue City Hall, I asked one of the ST staff/consultants whether Hospital Station would be built in such a way as to preseve the option of commuter rail on the BNSF. He said it was being planned with that in mind.

  7. Thanks for posting the link, Sherwin. I found it useful, to some extent, to have somewhat of a crash-course on the whole issue of Light Rail extending to the Eastside.

    Though, I get the sense that Up Front had a slightly editorial slant to it. I’d like to get a neutral presentation of all the issues surrounding Light Rail’s extension [to the Eastside]; does anyone know where I could find such a thing?

    1. I’m surprised they didn’t mention some counter groups to show where some of the opposition to E.Link is coming from.
      I’m no fan of Michail Ennis, at the Washington Policy Center, but they just released a pretty damning policy statement as to why LRT on I-90 was a ‘cook the books’ study.
      http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/sites/default/files/BRT-LRT.pdf
      Other links are available if you really wish to dig deeper into the debate.
      John Niles and freinds (CETA) produce some credible technical stuff over at PITF http://www.globaltelematics.com/pitf/
      Hope that helps.

      1. That’s just Richard Harkness’ drivel re-packaged and put on the WPC website. This is the guy who did his thesis on moving people in multi-modal containers, kinda like cattle. If they actually built a real BRT system around here Michael Ennis would be first in line to crow about the cost and limited benefit.

      2. Who cares what Michael Ennis and these other paid critics say?

        Voters in 2008, by 58% in Bellevue, said they want RAIL to the Eastside. End of story.

    2. Thank you Ben, and thank you Mike for attempting to help me with this. I really appreciate the olive branch. :)

      I think I’ll just putz around the interwebs a bit, and piece-meal what I can from credible sources.

      It’s just a shame that there can’t be a trusted source to produce reliable, unbiased data about these plans. :\

  8. Rossman’s comment that “no one” will use a trail along the railroad grade because there are trails in Mercer Slough Park (accompanied by video of such trails) goes unchallenged. The railroad grade trail goes somewhere (Renton-Snohomish) whereas the Mercer Slough trails go in circles. An equivalent statement for car drivers would be that “no one” will use 405 because there are streets in Bellevue. The point that trail users might actually want to go somewhere is overlooked . . . in favor of the assumption that they just want to be out and about without a destination.

  9. What I don’t get about the anti argument is, what’s Sound Transit’s angle? Why would they cook the books against B7? It’s pretty clear why someone with no interest in taking the train wouldn’t appreciate the noise and other impacts. But the rest eludes me.

  10. “folks who are not always welcome”

    Dog whistle politics at its worst. Not even particularly subtle or skilled about it.

  11. With regard to the crime stats, I came across a piece that Denver’s RTD put together a bit ago, looking at Baltimore, Denver and LA, and found some of the insights quite enlightening, and completely counter to what the xenophobes (oh gosh did I just broad brush someone) are saying. It is here, and unlike other groups, cites sources and includes a bibliography.

  12. It’s because of this Seattle’s transportation is still in the dark ages. Trains are more advanced than cars when we’re speaking about technology, yet the laziness of some Americans just want their beloved vehicle. I’m fed up with this region and its opposition for rail.

    Will someone please organize an event where all rail-proponents and meet and discuss ways to get a vast subway system in Greater Seattle built within the next five years.

    It shouldn’t have to take a hundred years to build a rail system.

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