Tacoma street work top priority in benefit district budget

Staff writerMay 3, 2013 

Tacoma’s City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a $4 million spending plan for the city’s newly created Transportation Benefit District, with the bulk of the money to be spent on local street repairs.

As part of the TBD budget — to be funded by revenues generated from the city’s soon-to-be imposed $20 vehicle license fee — city officials provided a tentative list of $3.6 million worth of local roadway improvements.

The remaining money in the spending plan will go toward repairing city sidewalks and curb ramps (about $307,000) and upgrading traffic signals (about $7,000).

Noting that $4 million isn’t meant to fix all of Tacoma’s aging infrastructure, Mayor Marilyn Strickland asked the city’s Interim Public Works Director Kurtis Kingsolver how much more will go toward street repairs over the next two years.

“We’re coming to you, I think next week or the week after, with another $30 million just in grant dollars,” Kingsolver responded. “It will be leveraging to build more roads, more trails, more infrastructure. So it’s a significant difference from here.”

With the city also now poised to separately spend $500,000 to help develop a transportation master plan, Kingsolver said details for more proposed transportation projects will be forthcoming. Funding for the master plan, announced earlier Tuesday, will be covered by using part of $4.1 million in better-than-expected revenues garnered at the close of last year’s general fund budget.

When developed, the master plan “will allow us to be really, really smart about how we spend these (TBD) dollars to build bike lanes, pave sidewalks, fix streets, do the basics around town,” added Councilman Ryan Mello.

Under Washington law, city or county governments can opt to create “transportation benefit districts” and impose an additional vehicle registration fee to fund local transportation projects.

Facing a massive budget shortfall and big cuts to its street fund last year, the city established Tacoma’s transportation benefit district and adopted the new fees to help pay for repairs to some of Tacoma’s lagging roadway troubles.

Tacoma’s new vehicle license fee program — a $20 local charge to be paid by vehicle owners when registering their vehicles — is set to begin June 1.

Lewis Kamb: 253-597-8542
lewis.kamb@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/politics
@lewiskamb

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