Massive transportation levy grows bigger

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Mayor Ed Murray

Mayor Ed Murray introduced a revised version of his Move Seattle transportation levy Wednesday morning, attaching a new price tag of $930 million. That's up just slightly from the hardly modest $900 million, but the mayor maintained that this is still not really enough.

Murray introduced the levy six weeks ago, to be added to the ballot next fall. If passed by the City Council and approved by voters, the nearly $1 billion levy will replace the current record holder, a $365 Bridging the Gap levy from 2006 that will expire next year.

Move Seattle covers a broad range of issues, including patches to the Ballard Bridge and a massive repaving effort. It will also add seven more Rapid Ride bus corridors.

But the crux of Move Seattle is, in Murray’s words, “to end the modal wars” between cars, bikes, transit and the like. That is, Murray envisions a Seattle transportation system that does not, for example, pit bikers and freight against one another. Where possible, the city would develop corridors that are capable of accommodating all modes of transportation, such as Downtown's Second Avenue, which was retrofitted for a safer bike lane. When such coexistence is not possible, corridors will be more specifically developed for one mode or the other so there isn’t so much competition for right of way.

After introducing the levy, the mayor said his office and the Seattle Department of Transportation would go to the community for feedback and make revisions accordingly. According to SDOT Director Scott Kubly, they heard more than 8,000 comments via town halls and surveys.

If passed, this levy would more than double the current average property tax from Bridging the Gap in Seattle to $275 for a median priced house, so no one would have been surprised if the mayor had announced Wednesday the administration was scaling the measure back. But Murray said, “People told us they wanted more.”

The additional $30 million will not add to the property tax. Instead, it will come from sales tax revenue earned on transportation projects funded by the levy itself. As Murray explained it, the city collects taxes on materials, labor and more. While that would usually go to the general fund, if the council approves this proposition, that money would go directly to building out more and safer sidewalks.

Neither SDOT nor the mayor’s office presented any polling data from the public that's supposedly asking for a bigger levy.

The draft will now be forwarded to the City Council for consideration and any revision members would like to make.


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About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.