Northwest NEWS

April 24, 2000

Editorial

Analysis finds Avondale Road failed test by wide margin

   In May of 1998, Ron Sims ordered King County DOT to do a retest of the traffic concurrency analysis for Redmond Ridge and Blakely Ridge. Sims admitted in writing that the "official" 1995 analysis that justified the traffic concurrency certificates issued for the UPDs was done with bad data.

   The Coalition for Public Trust and Friends of the Law have already stated that the tests for Novelty Hill Road failed this "retest" because of numerous errors that were applied by DOT planners that artificially lowered the volume over capacity (v/c) scores for all sections of Novelty Hill Road. A passing v/c score cannot exceed 1.10 (or 110% of road design capacity), but one section of Novelty Hill Road that actually failed their flawed 1998 retest with a v/c score of 1.12 was then improperly exempted by DOT by intentionally misapplying criteria that they were under orders from the Executive to stop using.

   Now Friends of the Law has looked into the portion of that 1998 retest related to Avondale Road, and the new discoveries are shocking. We now know that while DOT planners cheated to exempt "one" section of Novelty Hill Road that failed the test by just .02 with a score of 1.12, they repeated this blatant misapplication of the exemption criteria to exempt Avondale Road in its entirety from the test when it failed the test by a wide margin.

   So how badly did Avondale fail the test? The v/c score in the county's 1998 retest for Avondale Road was 1.67. That is 67% over design capacity and 57% above acceptable levels. In fact, the 1998 retest found that Avondale failed concurrency even without the UPDs, therefore stopping any new development until capacity could be increased. But King County has been willing to ignore the problem.

   Using the "honest" method of applying the exemption criteria--applied to every other development since late 1997, except the May 1998 UPD retest--Avondale Road failed the concurrency analysis by a mile. It is illegal for the county to approve a development that fails concurrency, and the county's refusal to do a Supplemental Impact Statement (SEIS) when asked by us in 1998 suggests that they already knew what the results of an SEIS would find and that they were committed to hiding them.

   Note also that the 1998 "retest" was labeled by DOT and Sims as "for informational purposes only" so the public could be denied their right to a hearing to challenge it. Neither the Hearing Examiner nor the Council was afforded their rights to see it or challenge its many flawed forecasts, capacities, and assumptions. The only "official" analysis in the record is the 1995 test that Sims admitted was flawed and not worth even challenging.

   The UPDs exist today based on that "official" test done in 1995 that the county executive has admitted was done with bad data, and an "informational" 1998 retest that was also done with bad data, that despite its flaws, still indicated that Novelty Hill Road and Avondale Road failed concurrency. Faced with this failure, DOT and Sims intentionally applied criteria that improperly exempted the failed roads anyway, thereby saving Quadrant's developments that most certainly should have never been approved if this was known in 1995, and certainly would have lost their permits if this was exposed in 1998.

   Novelty Hill Road in gridlock may be a local problem, affecting commuters from Duvall and residents who live on Novelty and Union Hills, but Avondale Road in gridlock is an entirely different matter. Avondale is one of the primary north/south "critical links" for residents of Kirkland, Woodinville, Redmond, and other communities to the north and south who commute to and from SR-520.

   If Avondale is brought to a standstill because of the UPD traffic, everything east of I-405 will be affected. The costs to address correcting this nightmare on Avondale will make the $150 million 5-lane widening costs to fix Novelty Hill Road pale in comparison. King County taxpayers will be forced to pay all the bills, letting Quadrant off the hook again for another outrageous infrastructure cost that they should be responsible for.

   This taxpayer-financed subsidy to Quadrant is growing into hundreds of millions of dollars. The more we look at what King County was willing to do for Quadrant in winning approval of the UPDs, the more we learn of these handouts to this developer. The lawsuit filed by Friends of the Law, characterized by Quadrant as "harassment" and "inconsequential" in the local press, is anything but trivial. It is the next step in the fight to defend the taxpayers of King County who will see both their incomes and their lifestyles ravaged if Quadrant's traffic impacts are not addressed by King County.

Joseph Elfelt, Friends of the Law