Seattle passes $1.55B transportation levy funded by taxpayers; voters to get final say

Jul 9, 2024, 3:14 PM | Updated: Jul 11, 2024, 12:14 pm

Image: A person can be seen walking up the stairs to Seattle City Hall. (Photo courtesy of Flickr C...

A person can be seen walking up the stairs to Seattle City Hall. (Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons)

The Seattle City Council approved a transportation levy on to voters during their meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The council unanimously passed the 8-year levy, which will total $1.55 billion.

“This is a cost-effective investment that will save lives,” Seattle City Council member Rob Saka said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “From filling potholes and keeping our bridges running to addressing the safety crisis playing out on our streets, this is an investment in our future that our entire community can be proud of.

Saka represents District 1 in Seattle and is the chair of the Select Committee on the 2024 Transportation Levy.

Once Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell signs the package, it will go to the city’s voters on Election Day in November. Harrell announced Tuesday afternoon in a statement that he intends to sign the legislation into law at an event Wednesday morning.

According to Saka’s release, the $1.55 billion will be distributed in at least 10 different ways with $403 million going to “street maintenance and modernization,” $221 million being allocated to “bridge infrastructure and safety” and $193 million in “pedestrian safety.”

Saka’s release notes that levies in Seattle are funded by property owners. Under this levy proposals, the estimated property tax bill for the median homeowner in Seattle would be $499 per year. That would cost taxpayers $18.58 per month more than the expiring levy.

The current transportation levy was passed in 2015 and is set to expire later this year, the statement adds. It accounts for roughly 30% of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) budget for core services and new projects.

Previous polls reveal support of larger Seattle transportation levy

A City Council news release last month referenced an SDOT poll asking if residents would prefer a $1.7 billion levy or a $1.2 billion version. Out of a survey of 1,000 voters, the majority said they wanted the larger version, according to the Urbanist in January.

The survey, as reported by the Urbanist, highlighted a new RapidRide line connecting Rainier Beach with Eastlake via Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill. It also noted the $1.7 billion would go toward a full rebuild of East Marginal Way South and upgrades to the Ballard and Fremont bridges, which were originally promised to voters in 2015 but not achieved due to lack of funding.

However, the same SDOT poll showed that 53% of BIPOC opposed the proposed $1.7 billion levy, while 45% were for it.

The Northwest Progressive Institute conducted a poll in May which also revealed majority support for a larger levy.”I have heard loud and clear from constituents in every single council district during our public hearings that voters want a bolder transportation levy package that prioritizes safety investments for all,” City Council member Tammy J. Morales of District 2 stated in that earlier release. “This council has a once-in-a-decade opportunity to shape our city’s transportation investments to center mobility and safety for all who use our streets.”

Past Chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee opposes levy

Former Seattle City Council member and past Chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee, from 2020 to 2023, Alex Pedersen, opposes the $1.55 billion levy.

Pedersen sent a statement to MyNorthwest on Thursday:

“It’s insensitive for politicians to act like cheerleaders for such a massive transportation tax increase while renters, homeowners, and small businesses struggle to stay in Seattle. Why would anyone want to pay more than $500 each year to let SDOT aggravate traffic congestion, leave most roads in worse condition, and fail to fix dangerous bridges?

No matter how lobbyists try to sugarcoat the largest tax in Seattle’s history, it’s up to voters to reject City Hall’s unaffordable, unfair, and ineffective transportation levy and send it back to the drawing board.”

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Contributing: Julia Dallas

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of MyNorthwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X, or email him here.

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Seattle passes $1.55B transportation levy funded by taxpayers; voters to get final say