Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, in her State of the City address Wednesday, said voters will get a chance this fall to reverse “decades of neglect” of city streets by approving a $500 million ballot measure to fund their repair.
The streets proposal would raise $50 million per year for 10 years. Strickland said that’s about $15 per month for each household in the city.
“By doing so, we can touch every single residential street in the entire city of Tacoma,” Strickland said in her speech. “… Depending on the rating of your street, we are going to touch your street in some way.”
Strickland also used her speech at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center to announce a paid two-year city internship for veterans transitioning from the military to civilian life. She made her remarks to a crowd of 320 people attending a luncheon organized by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.
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The mayor didn’t say how the city would raise the street-repair money, but she did give some details about how the work would be done.
Roads rated excellent or good would receive routine maintenance to keep them in decent shape. Roads in fair condition will receive a chip seal and surface treatments.
For the worst cases — those roads rated poor or failed — workers would grind down the surfaces, repair the underlying subgrade and lay 2 inches of new asphalt on top.
Tacoma’s 167 blocks of gravel roads — which Strickland pointed out still exist in the city — also would get paved. Public Works Director Kurtis Kingsolver explained after the speech that crews would scrape down the road, lay 2 inches of compacted crushed rock, followed by a 2-inch layer of asphalt.
Tom Pierson, president of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, said he won’t decide whether to back the mayor’s plan until he sees more details about where the city would get the money.
Pierson is part of a group that has met since the failure of the Proposition 1 in 2013, which asked voters for $11 million per year from higher utility earnings taxes. Voters rejected that issue, with 57 percent voting no. Critics, including Pierson, said $11 million per year wasn’t enough to pay for street repairs citywide.
On size alone, the mayor’s plan looks promising, he said.
“This will definitely help,” Pierson said. “We all agree we need to get this done.”
Also Wednesday, Strickland said the city will start the Veterans Internship Program this spring. The city will select veterans or active-duty personnel for a two-year professional fellowship within four city departments.
The fellowships will pay in the high $40,000 to low $50,000 range, Strickland said.
“Upon completion of the program, we are going to try to find them permanent jobs within the city of Tacoma,” she said.
TV Tacoma will show the State of the City speech several times in the coming weeks. The first airings are March 1 at 1 a.m. and 3 p.m.
To get an idea of the condition of Tacoma streets, here’s an interactive map. Unfortunately the information in the map is several years old but it should provide some sense of the scale of road repairs needed.