King County approves roads, bridges funding

The capital projects funding is significantly less than previous years.

Road closed warning sign. File photo

Road closed warning sign. File photo

A new six-year roads and bridges capital improvements plan was approved by the King County Metropolitan Council with far less funding than county officials say is needed to preserve existing infrastructure.

The total six-year plan (CIP) assumes there will be $61.4 million available to undertake a variety of critical safety programs. This is a nearly 80% reduction from two decades ago when the budget was around $500 million annually, said director of the county’s Roads Services department Rick Brater. The 2019-20 county budget for roads and bridges was $108.2 million annually.

“Some of it was annexations and some of it was just due to our funding structure,” Brater said at a Nov. 18 Budget and Fiscal Management Committee meeting.

That funding structure means that the majority of roads funding comes from property taxes from the roughly 230,000 people who live in unincorporated portions of the county. With the reductions, Brater said safety projects are undertaken first, while regulatory compliance and preservation come second.

“In this program we have bridges, some paving, some drainage work,” he said.

King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert said in recent memory the county could undertake 17 major projects in a year. Two years ago the county did zero, and last year they did one. In this CIP, the roadway preservation budget is dropping to around $6 million from $17 million.

“So when people say why is this not happening, why is that not happening, it’s because the money’s not there,” Lambert said.

Councilmember Rod Dembwoski said finding more funding for roads and bridges is one of their top priorities going into the 2020 state legislative session. Other significant reductions include high collision area safety projects, which will drop from around $1.8 million in 2019 to $100,000 next year. Flood control district funding will drop by more than $1 million, and the county’s quick response program will see funding reduced from $5.1 million to $1.5 million.

In total, the six-year plan is projected to need some $246.9 million.

The recently approved Initiative 976, which sought to reduce car tabs and put restrictions on transportation taxing districts, could also impact the county if its share of state funding is affected. King County officials have around five years to figure out how to continue funding roads and bridges maintenance and projects. It is projected that by 2025, the county will run out of money for capital projects.

Because of declining revenue between 2012 and 2018, there has been no new stand-alone bridge replacements since 2014. An independent analysis from 2015 found the county could use up to $500 million each year to fully fund transportation infrastructure projects.

By 2040, it’s expected that 72 miles of county roads may turn to gravel and multiple bridges could be closed. Ways to bridge the gap have been floated by Lambert, who said the county could create enterprise zones where the county would actively recruit businesses to unincorporated areas. It could also ask the state Legislature to change its revenue formula to direct more funding to rural roads, siphoning some tax money generated in cities.

The state is also exploring a pay-per-mile tax scheme to study the effects of replacing the gas tax.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

File photo
State Supreme Court strikes down $30 car-tab initiative

Justices unanimously agreed that voter-approved Initiative 976 is unconstitutional.

A suspect in a carjacking hangs almost 60 feet up in a tree after climbing it to avoid police on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 near Mill Creek, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After gunfire, Bothell carjacking suspect climbs a tree

He allegedly passed a trooper at 114 mph on a motorcycle, crashed, stole a car, fled gunshots and climbed 60 feet.

Hilary Franz (left) and Sue Kuehl Pederson
Wildfires, forest health are key issues in race to lead DNR

Republican Sue Kuehl Pederson is challenging incumbent Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

power grid electricity power lines blackouts PG&E (Shutterstock)
State extends moratorium on some electric, gas shutoffs

Investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in WA can’t disconnect customers through April.

Cecil Lacy Jr. (Family photo)
Court: New trial in case of man who told police ‘Can’t breathe’

Cecil Lacy Jr. of Tulalip died in 2015 while in police custody.

A Sept. 10 satellite image shows smoke from U.S. wildfires blanketing the majority of the West Coast. (European Space Agency)
University of Washington professors talk climate change, U.S.-China relations

Downside for climate policy supporters is it can risk alienating moderate or right-leaning voters.

Sightseers at a Snoqualmie Falls viewpoint adjacent to the Salish Lodge & Spa on Feb. 19, 2020. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
25 COVID cases linked to Salish Lodge

Public Health is urging anyone who visited the lodge to monitor for symptoms or get tested.

The nose of the 500th 787 Dreamliner at the assembly plant in Everett on Sept. 21, 2016. (Kevin Clark / Herald, file)
Report: Boeing will end 787 Dreamliner production in Everett

Boeing declined comment on a Wall Street Journal story saying the passenger jet’s assembly will move to South Carolina.

Car hits hydrant and power pole in Bothell

Luckily there were no injuries

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Surge in consumer spending eases state budget challenges

A jump in tax collections cuts a projected $9 billion shortfall in half, acccording to new forecast.

Rendering of the completed boathouse. Courtesy photo/City of Kenmore
Kenmore project will bring public rowing to Rhododendron Park

The project will create a boathouse for both public and school district use

High speed rail and hub cities explored in Cascadia Corridor study

A new paper outlines a potential plan for the region.