King County's Bridges and Roads Task Force says unincorporated area residents can’t be asked to fund maintenance and repair of County roads alone, and calls for a regional or statewide solution to address a funding gap of $250 to $400 million a year.
A task force recommended a host of reforms and funding principles for addressing the rapidly deteriorating network of bridges and roads in the unincorporated area of King County. The panel presented its findings to King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Councilmember Kathy Lambert.
“Providing safe and reliable roads is a top priority, and in continued partnership with the cities we will again look to the Legislature for solutions that can work for the 21st century,” said Executive Constantine. “These recommendations reinforce the urgency of the need, and provide new ideas for keeping communities connected.”
“I appreciate the hard work from members of the task force and staff,” said Councilmember Lambert. “I believe this has been a good learning experience for all involved on the many facets of the roads deficit and the 25-year old broken state funding formula. The consultants who were part of this task force independently verified the extent of the problem and validated our serious concerns. I look forward to the continued support of task force members advocating in Olympia for real and comprehensive solutions.”
Nearly three decades of annexations, declines in gas tax revenues, and the effects of voter initiatives have led to chronic underfunding of county roads across the state. Over the last six months, members of the King County Bridges and Roads Task Force studied the Road Services funding gap, and the efficiencies that have been put in place to address this shortfall.
Task Force members comprise a cross-section of road experts, policy makers, and representatives from agriculture, recreation, and local communities. The Task Force identified the range of the Roads funding gap as $250 to $400 million a year, and generated 152 recommendations to address that gap, among them:
- Revenue: Authority from the state Legislature for a fair, non-regressive countywide revenue tool that is tied to inflation, that is sustainable over the long-term, and that provides a benefit to both cities and the County. The Task Force recognizes that the most successful approach may involve using multiple revenue tools and efficiencies with some additional resources dedicated to city transportation needs.
- Infrastructure: Authority from the state Legislature that provides for cities to annex orphan County roads that lie inside their boundaries, and supports annexation of Potential Annexation Areas within the growth boundaries of those cities.
- Outreach: Many Task Force members plan to serve as ambassadors to increase awareness about issues facing Road Services during implementation of these recommendations.
People from all parts of the County—and beyond—take more than one million trips per day on the 1,500 miles of roads and 181 bridges maintained by King County. About half the trips on the high-volume roads originate not only in cities, but in other counties. These roads connect people in cities who are traveling to work, school, and recreation; provide a path for businesses and farmers delivering goods and services; and enable police and fire to respond to emergencies.
King County currently has about $100 million in annual revenue for the care of County bridges and roads—enough to address immediate safety issues, clean water requirements, and a modest amount of maintenance and preservation. At this level of funding, however, it’s estimated the system will continue to deteriorate and that, over the next 25 years, an estimated 35 bridges will need to be closed as they become unsafe, and about 72 miles of roadway restricted or closed.
- King County Bridges and Roads Task Force website
- Task Force recommendations PDF
- Primer on King County finances with focus on roads CLIP
- NEWS: Executive names panel to address sustainable funding for roads
Providing safe and reliable roads is a top priority, and in continued partnership with the cities we will again look to the Legislature for solutions that can work for the 21st century. These recommendations reinforce the urgency of the need, and provide new ideas for keeping communities connected.
I appreciate the hard work from members of the task force and staff. I believe this has been a good learning experience for all involved on the many facets of the roads deficit and the 25-year old broken state funding formula. The consultants who were part of this task force independently verified the extent of the problem and validated our serious concerns. I look forward to the continued support of task force members advocating in Olympia for real and comprehensive solutions.
All residents of King County benefit from high quality roads. As a farmer, I know good, safe roads are required for the production and timely delivery of agriculture products. King County’s Agriculture Production Districts can meet their potential only with modern road services. I am glad to have been a member of the Roads Task Force. I look forward to seeing our rural road infrastructure maintained for both food production and the public’s enjoyment of open space.
As a leader in an organization that has championed responsible growth management for over 25 years, participating in this Task Force reminded me of the crucial link between land use and transportation. If we’re going to succeed in driving growth to cities, while protecting our rural lands, there must be sustainable and flexible sources of revenue to support overlapping resources like transportation.
Being a part of this task force gave us a vital opportunity to work together and be part of the solution. We’re helping to save our road system and keep our communities connected. This task force brainstormed and brainstormed. It was great teamwork. I’m glad I was a part of this task force and I hope to see our lawmakers consider some of our solutions.
This task force which is comprised of a diverse mix of community leaders within King County has evaluated all possible ideas to adequately fund our King County roads systems and have concluded the recommendations we are making to our elected leaders are the most practical and realistic solutions to the problem.
During the course of its work, this task force recognized the many steps the County has already taken to maximize every available road dollar. The group also gave us additional valuable input on how to stretch those dollars even further—ideas we will continue to explore in the coming months.
For more information, contact:
Frank Abe, Dept. of Transportation, 206-263-9609