Several roads in King County, including the Snoqualmie Parkway, were closed when a brief snow storm struck the region last February. File photo

Several roads in King County, including the Snoqualmie Parkway, were closed when a brief snow storm struck the region last February. File photo

King County Council could place roads levy lift on 2020 ballot

Levy could increase taxes for a median home by about $224 a year.

King County voters could be presented with a levy lid lift measure on either the August or November ballot this year in order to increase funding for roads and bridges in unincorporated parts of the county.

The lid lift would raise the amount King County could collect to its statutory limit of $2.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Over the following six years, the measure would allow for inflationary growth to keep pace with needs. The current collection rate is $1.81 per $1,000.

The proposed levy lid lift could raise some $164 million over eight years. The levy could increase taxes for a median home by about $224 a year and, if approved, would go into effect in January 2021. The King County Council will vote to approve or deny the ballot measure in the coming months.

King County Department of Local Services Director John Taylor said the budget shortfall facing his department stems from structural problems.

“The Roads Division are probably one of the biggest victims of that,” Taylor said at a Feb. 3 Local Services Committee meeting.

While this would increase funding by about $22 million annually, it’s still less than what’s needed to fund the county’s Roads Department. Incorporations and annexations have steadily been chipping away at the county’s funding base. As neighborhoods are brought into surrounding cities, the annexations decrease the amount of taxes the county receives. Consequently, a smaller number of people living in unincorporated parts of the county end up footing the bill for much of its roads and bridges infrastructure.

The county is facing a situation where by 2025, it will run out of funding for capital projects. After that point, even basic maintenance services would likely be reduced. The county’s road budget has become underfunded by around $250 million annually to fully fund all capital projects and maintenance.

Rick Brater, the county’s Road Services Division director, said around one-quarter of about 80 bridges the county surveyed have some sort of load restrictions. Roads and bridges in unincorporated parts of the county facilitate an average of 1 million vehicle trips a day. This includes areas like White Center or Skyway, which are unincorporated, but sit between major cities including Seattle, Renton and Burien.

If the county isn’t able to find funding for its infrastructure, it could consider closing rural bridges and letting roads return to gravel. By 2040, it’s expected that up to 72 miles of county roads may go to gravel, and multiple bridges will have closed, the county reports. The median age of the county’s 182 bridges is 65 years, while the typical useful lifespan is about 50 years.

King County representatives have been asking the state to re-examine the way it allocates taxes. This could potentially allow the county to receive additional revenue from taxes collected within cities. King County Council member Claudia Balducci said rural roads are a benefit to everyone in the county and likened it to services such as Metro.

“You still benefit from the fact that it’s there,” Balducci said.

Maintenance for all roads in unincorporated parts of the county are paid for by the roughly 250,000 residents who live there.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Sound Publishing file photo

Sound Publishing file photo

More in News

Trouble could be over at crime-infested Kent home

Police focus to shut it down after years of problems, complaints

Aerial view of the Amtrak Cascades train derailment in 2017 near DuPont, Wash. Courtesy Wikipedia
Amtrak, Sound Transit and the state all named in derailment lawsuit

It was filed on behalf of the family of a teenager who was paralyzed in the 2017 crash.

Puget Sound Fire call report

Type, number of incidents

Needles littered the ground throughout a homeless encampment at Federal Way’s Hylebos Wetlands, which is public property. Sound Publishing file photo
Republican leadership doubts effectiveness of homelessness spending

Democrats propose hundreds of millions toward affordable housing.

Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht gave a response to an Office of Law Enforcement Oversight report on Feb. 25 before the King County Law and Justice Committee. The report recommended ways her department could reform use of force policy and internal investigations. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Council unsatisfied with Sheriff’s response to use of deadly force report

The King County Sheriff’s Office could be required to explain why it didn’t implement recommendations.

King County approves low-income Metro fare waivers

Low-income transit riders could see their King County Metro fares waived beginning… Continue reading

Most Read