Don’t derail Link plans

Back in November 2008, the people of Washington voted to extend Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail to the Eastside.

You saw that regional traffic congestion was only going to get worse. You knew that continuously expanding our road networks was expensive for taxpayers, unsustainable for growth, and ineffective for congestion relief. You understood that light rail systems could create dense, vibrant, and modern transit-oriented developments in rapidly growing regions like the Eastside.

That was why the Eastside approved light rail.

This isn’t a Democrat versus Republican issue either. It’s a nationwide, bipartisan push for faster, more reliable, and more efficient transportation.

Portland has it, Los Angeles has it, and even cities in the deep south like Dallas and Houston have systems many times larger than ours.

The reason is that, like us, they want regional mobility, continued growth in their cities, and 21st century solutions for a 21st century world.

Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue have been hard at work in bringing light rail to the Eastside. There has been so much covered in the light rail study sessions at Bellevue City Council that it would take many a day to cover it fully.

Without going into the details, I assure you that Sound Transit and the City of Bellevue have made tremendous progress.

But here’s the catch. Somewhere in Bellevue is a property owner that wants to shut the project down. Yes - stop it. Derail Link Light Rail before it reaches the Eastside. Sink it deep into Lake Washington while it crosses the bridge. To fight voters and public interests in favor of personal gains. To stifle the Eastside’s vitality and potential for the sake of his views.

Here’s someone who wants you to sit in traffic, whose fortune rests atop your losses, and who wants to stop regional progress dead in its tracks.

Meet Kemper Freeman, the man whose mall rests atop land formerly farmed by Japanese migrants before they were forcefully relocated to internment camps after World War II. But that’s another story for another time. Or you could Bing it yourself.

The problem at hand is that public interests are at stake. Freeman has filed a lawsuit against the state government aimed at halting light rail expansion to the Eastside, which is not only against regional interests, but against the majority of voters who approved it through a democratic process.

His motives are often vague, but it is clear from his campaigns that he sees light rail as a socialist ideology, rather than an effective transportation tool.

The lawsuit claims that light rail cannot travel over the I-90 floating bridge because the bridge was funded through gas-tax money, and would violate state constitution.

Well, firstly, the bridge was built primarily with federal dollars, so it is not bound by state constitution restrictions.

Second, in 1976, before the bridge was built, Federal, State, and local government agreements designated that the center lanes be used for high-capacity transit in the future.

Third, and this should alleviate some concerns, the carpool lanes in the center roadway are not disappearing. They will simply be moved to the outer roadway.

Despite all this, the lawsuit has been accepted and the case will be heard by the state Supreme Court in the fall.

No one can say for sure what the end result of the lawsuit will be. But one thing is for certain, and it’s that Bellevue is no longer just another suburban community.

It’s the heart of the Eastside and it’s growing fast. Despite Freeman’s contribution to Bellevue’s growth, his views on transportation simply aren’t relevant to the modern Bellevue and its surroundings.

In short, the Eastside has outgrown him.

Now we need to ask ourselves, should we allow Kemper Freeman’s personal interests to overshadow ours and those of the region? Should someone have a voice louder and more influential than the rest of us, just because he has more monetary assets?

And, finally, should we sacrifice the Eastside’s future to satisfy a man with a roads-only, 1950s perspective on transportation?

Jason Lu is a senior at Skyline High School. He has an interest in transit and development issues, and has studied transportation systems and their impacts on daily commuting cultures. Jason has lived in Taiwan, and has traveled to Tokyo, London, and Paris.

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