The dedicated account for the two voter-approved street packages has been created and work plans are underway. The end of potholes will take time, but relief is on the way.
Tacoma voters approved two tax and fee increase packages last November that are projected to generate $325 million for road repairs and rebuilds during the next 10 years.
Decisions on which road or sidewalk or trail gets fixed first will be based on cost and need but will largely follow the city’s Six-Year Infrastructure Maintenance Plan, the Six-Year Comprehensive Transportation Plan and Tacoma’s Transportation Master Plan.
Proposition 3 increased the gross earnings tax on utility companies by 1.5 percent and increased property taxes by 20 cents per $1,000 in property value. That tax is projected to raise $9.89 million a year. Proposition A increased sales taxes by 0.1 percent, from 9.5 to 9.6 percent, to generate about $2.4 million this year since the collection period only covers half of 2016, as outlined in the campaign. A full year of the added sales tax will generate about $4.5 million.
“We are staying true to our promise,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.
The Transportation Benefit District is a separate taxing district for funding specific transportation projects within the City of Tacoma. In the last two years, projects included 39 blocks of residential chip seal, 30 lane miles of arterial chip sealing, the improvement of 56 curb ramps, and permanent repair of 1,978 potholes. Proposition A more than doubles the funding for these types of projects in the city from $2.5 million to $7 million a year. Proposition 3 increases street funding from $118 million to $248 million, an increase of 110 percent of dedicated funding for street maintenance and improvements.
These propositions are projected to generate $175 million of new revenue until they expire in 10 years. Proposition 3 will generate $130 million, while Proposition A would generate $45 million in the next decade. That money will be combined with an estimated $120 million in grants and another $30 million from the city to tally $325 million for only Tacoma’s streets and transportation plans during the 10-year span.
The City Council set up a dedicated account for its Proposition 3 tax revenue, while the city’s Transportation Improvement Board, which is comprised of the City Council, approved a plan to add the Proposition A money to the new established "2015 Voted Streets Initiative Fund." The creation of the new account allows for transparency of the money flowing in from taxes and the money going toward road and sidewalk improvements that will be recapped at least each year at City Council meetings. The city could simply added the new tax dollars to existing road-funding accounts but comingling those dollars would have created a less transparent way to show residents where money is coming from and on what projects the voter-approved packages actually funded.
“It shows all the money is going directly to roads,” City Councilmember Robert Thoms said.
Alongside the creation of the roads-dedicated fund was an amendment to the city’s plan for roads repairs to acknowledge the new dollars flowing into those projects.
The city’s Street Operations Division has 66 full-time employees are responsible for maintaining 857 lane miles of main arterial streets and 8,610 residential blocks as well as more than 75,000 street signs.