Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Council approves transportation benefit district
2.5 percent commercial parking tax and freight advisory board also finalized
SEATTLE – Seattle City Council today approved C.B. 116947 with a 8-0 vote, creating a transportation benefit district (TBD) as authorized by state law.
"We have a large backlog of street, bike and pedestrian maintenance in our transportation and capital infrastructure needs in this City," stated Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Chair of the transportation committee. "We have a responsibility to the entire region to ensure our transportation needs are met, and people and goods can move easily through our corridor. The TBD provides just such a mechanism to utilize if needed."
The TBD will provide the City with a variety of revenue generating options to fund City transportation needs. The Council also agreed to a TBD advisory committee. The committee will conduct a comprehensive citizen review of Seattle Department of Transportation's (SDOT) finances and project needs before funding recommendations would go to the voters.
Under the TBD, the Council created the mechanism that may enact a $20 vehicle licensing fee; one that may be necessitated by dramatically declining revenues that have hurt the SDOT's ability to keep up with basic maintenance. This fee would not need to go through a voter approval process, but how it might be spent is expected to be considered through the TBD advisory committee.
Commercial Parking Tax:
Today Council also approved C.B. 116936, raising the existing commercial parking tax (CPT) from 10 percent to 12.5 percent. The increased rate will generate about $5 million annually, a significant amount that will help address unfunded costs during 2011 and 2012 on the Alaskan Way Seawall replacement project, the Mercer West project and other related projects. In 2011, the Council will consider placing a ballot measure before voters that would complete the funding package for the Seawall replacement.
The CPT is an existing 10 percent tax that raises approximately $19 million per year to fund transportation infrastructure as part of the "Bridging the Gap" program to restore Seattle's streets and bridges. This additional 2.5 percent increment will support bonds for the approximately $61 million budget for the Seawall and related projects in 2011 and 2012. State law requires that the CPT can only be used to fund transportation projects.
CPT is necessary to keep critical viaduct replacement projects on schedule and on budget while providing some flexibility to delay asking voters for money this year to pay for the seawall. This is a fiscally prudent approach to maintaining major transportation needs while not over-burdening the taxpayers.
Freight Advisory Board:
Through Resolution 31243, sponsored by Councilmember Rasmussen, the Council created a new Freight Advisory Board. This group will focus on preserving and improving mobility and access for the transport of goods and connecting the community.
This board will advise the City on land-based freight transportation facilities projects, policies, modifications, and enhancements. The Board will have the authority to provide input on City policies, plans and projects as they may relate to freight capacity, safety, access and mobility throughout the City, with a particular focus on the City's industrial lands, and the businesses they support.
The Seattle Freight Advisory Board will be composed of 12 members. Six members will be appointed by the Mayor, and five members will be appointed by the City Council; all eleven appointments will be subject to City Council confirmation and two-year terms. A twelfth board member will be designated by the Port of Seattle and will not be subject to the two-year term limitation.