Cities are nonetheless lagging behind in the case of highway upkeep

Cities in Washington continue to suffer from a $ 1 billion road maintenance deficit annually, local government officials and supporters testified at a June 22 JTC meeting; The problem was first revealed in a report published almost two years ago.

Although the city’s elected officials are looking for expanded or expanded local revenue opportunities, they also hope to receive additional government funding through a new transportation package.

Washington’s 281 cities comprise not only 65 percent of the state’s population, but also 45,000 miles of roads and 750 bridges – a total of 26 percent of all of the country’s transportation routes. Cities use a variety of revenue options to fund road maintenance, upkeep, and improvements, including local sales tax, vehicle fees, operations taxes, impact fees, and transportation benefit districts (TBDs). This local funding accounts for 79 percent of city transportation spending, with 13 percent coming from the state and eight percent from federal funding.

A city can also finance road needs through its general fund. Overall, however, cities only spend 11 percent of their budget on local transport.

“There are many competing needs and not much in terms of dedicated resources for intra-city traffic,” Candice Bock, director of government relations for the Association of Washington Cities, told the JTC. “It competes with the rest of this cake. It’s not surprising that we can’t keep up. “

Bock noted that in addition to maintenance, cities are also trying to improve infrastructure to keep up with population growth. But that only increases the transportation requirements. While it costs $ 1 million to maintain a mile of sidewalk, adding a mile in an urban setting costs $ 16 million for other things that include utility infrastructure.

“It’s more than just a sidewalk,” says Bock.

While the state has an estimated $ 925 million in road maintenance and repair, Tacoma councilor Kristina Walker told JTC that Tacoma alone has a deferred maintenance deficit of $ 348 million, adding added that the $ 17.5 million local revenue stream generated for transportation is “like a drop in the bucket” compared to actual needs. The typical city already spends 37 percent of its traffic expenditure on maintaining and maintaining roads.

“Much of our general fund is dedicated to existing projects and regulatory compliance issues,” Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle told the JTC. “We are lagging behind everything. Due to Covid, we delayed a lot of work because we were not sure of the financing options. That goes for every city in the state. “

She added that as the city continues to grow, there will be additional needs for sidewalks, raised zebra crossings, and bike paths. Vancouver currently funds local transportation with its share of the state’s real estate excise tax (REET), a TBD, impact fees, and a commercial license fee.

Tacoma also hopes to expand its local multimodal system. However, Walker said that at the current funding rate, this will take 140 years.

McEnerny-Ogle informed JTC members that the new transportation package should include not only local revenue options for cities, but also dedicated funds for maintenance. The package is also intended to pay for the replacement of the I-5 bridge that crosses Vancouver to Portland – another local priority.

“We want to bring the cargo over the I-5 bridge from I-5 to our port,” said McEnerny-Ogle. “That is a challenge.”

During the 2020 legislative period, the deputy chairwoman of the local government committee Davina Dürr (D-1) supported HB 2804 which would have increased the state contribution the local revitalization financing program (LRF). The program launched by the legislature in 2009 enables cities and counties to pay for improvement projects in certain areas with the new tax revenue generated in them. The bill could not clarify the legislature.

Rep. Bob McCaslin (R-4) introduced during this year’s legislature HB 1137 which makes the transport policy goals of the state more resilient. The bill cleared the legislature and was signed by Governor Jay Inslee. It comes into force on July 25th.