Public Planning

Harrell administration adds a modest $100 million in investments to draft 2024 transportation levy proposal

At a press con­fer­ence this morn­ing on the shores of Lake Union, Seat­tle May­or Bruce Har­rell unveiled a revised draft of his admin­is­tra­tion’s pro­pos­al for renew­ing the city’s almost decade-old trans­porta­tion levy, which mod­est­ly increas­es the size of the propo­si­tion from $1.35 bil­lion to $1.45 bil­lion. Flanked by advo­cates, city staff, and busi­ness lead­ers, Har­rell pitched the pro­pos­al as essen­tial and respon­sive to the pub­lic input the city has col­lect­ed since the pub­li­ca­tion of the pre­vi­ous draft on April 4th.

“Over the last month, we’ve received feed­back from thou­sands of Seat­tle res­i­dents who want a trans­porta­tion sys­tem that is safe, con­nect­ed, and well main­tained – this pro­pos­al will help get us there,” said May­or Har­rell. “With a focus on the essen­tial needs of our city and its res­i­dents, this levy pro­pos­al will deliv­er projects and improve­ments to keep peo­ple mov­ing and to keep peo­ple safe. No mat­ter your pre­ferred method of trans­porta­tion, these invest­ments are designed to make trips safer, more reli­able, and bet­ter con­nect­ed, so every Seat­tleite can get where they need to go.”

NPI attend­ed the press con­fer­ence and record­ed it in its entire­ty. Watch below:

The may­or’s office pro­vid­ed a sum­ma­ry of what’s in the pro­pos­al. We’ve repro­duced this below in col­umn for­mat so it’s eas­i­er to see what has been added.

Levy highlights

  1. $423 mil­lion to repave arte­r­i­al streets that car­ry the most bus­es, trucks, and cars, and improve infra­struc­ture for peo­ple walk­ing, rolling, bik­ing, and tak­ing transit. 
  2. $221 mil­lion to keep bridges in reli­able work­ing con­di­tion and pre­pare for future bridge projects.
  3. $162 mil­lion to make tar­get­ed and com­mu­ni­ty-request­ed Vision Zero safe­ty improve­ments to streets, side­walks, inter­sec­tions, and cross­ings to reduce traf­fic col­li­sions, severe injuries, and fatalities.
  4. $145 mil­lion to con­nect peo­ple safe­ly to tran­sit hubs, includ­ing Link light rail sta­tions and bus stops, and reduce delays on bus routes.
  5. $135 mil­lion to build and repair side­walks, cross­ings, and curb ramps so peo­ple walk­ing and rolling can safe­ly get to where they need to go.
  6. $114 mil­lion to expand Seattle’s pro­tect­ed bike lane net­work; con­nect schools to bike lanes, paths, and neigh­bor­hood green­ways; and main­tain and upgrade exist­ing bike lanes.
  7. $100 mil­lion to install new and main­tain and upgrade traf­fic sig­nals for safe, reli­able move­ment; improve pedes­tri­an and bike acces­si­bil­i­ty; and sup­port traf­fic oper­a­tions dur­ing large events and for trips in and out of the port. 
  8. $66 mil­lion to acti­vate pub­lic spaces and improve light­ing in part­ner­ship with busi­ness dis­tricts and com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions so peo­ple can enjoy unique and vibrant, acti­vat­ed spaces.
  9. $59 mil­lion to make direct invest­ments in address­ing cli­mate change, reduc­ing air pol­lu­tion and mak­ing sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion options more avail­able, in addi­tion to hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in cli­mate-for­ward, pol­lu­tion-reduc­ing invest­ments across oth­er areas of the levy.
  10. $25 mil­lion to make freight improve­ments to sup­port trucks deliv­er­ing goods and pro­vid­ing services. 
  11. New side­walk and infra­struc­ture strate­gies ($5 mil­lion) to increase side­walk repair and estab­lish a Trans­porta­tion Fund­ing Task Force. 

Added in this draft

  1. $3 mil­lion added to the new Bridge Pre­ven­ta­tive Main­te­nance Pro­gram to expand bridge preser­va­tion focused on opti­mum treat­ment cycles.
  2. Now includes a $41 mil­lion Neigh­bor­hood Ini­ti­at­ed Safe­ty Part­ner­ship Pro­gram and an addi­tion­al $14 mil­lion Dis­trict Project Fund to address emer­gent neigh­bor­hood con­cerns and requests.
  3. $23 mil­lion added to improve tran­sit reli­a­bil­i­ty and safety.
  4. $26 mil­lion added to improve walk­ing and rolling, includ­ing a com­mit­ment to build 250 blocks of new side­walks or alter­na­tive walk­ways in 4 years.
  5. $20 mil­lion added to expand the bike net­work, with a focus on South Seattle.

  1. $11 mil­lion added to improve pub­lic spaces includ­ing addi­tion­al light­ing lead­ing to tran­sit stops and sta­tions and addi­tion­al project devel­op­ment for Occi­den­tal Promenade.
  2. $10 mil­lion added to sup­port Seat­tle City Light’s expan­sion of pub­licly avail­able elec­tric vehi­cle charg­ers. 

“After a month of con­sul­ta­tion with the pub­lic, May­or Har­rell has made the Trans­porta­tion Levy pro­pos­al even bet­ter with addi­tion­al invest­ments in walk­ing, bik­ing and tran­sit,” said Seat­tle Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (SDOT) Direc­tor Greg Spotts. “The revised pro­pos­al would give SDOT 17% more pur­chas­ing pow­er to main­tain our mod­ern­ize our streets than the cur­rent Levy to Move Seattle.”

That may be… but the admin­is­tra­tion also passed up an oppor­tu­ni­ty to go bigger.

Seat­tle is a city with an elec­torate that under­stands the need for bold action — a city where peo­ple believe in pool­ing their resources to get things done. It’s also a place that faces a lot of mobil­i­ty prob­lems as well as crum­bling roads and aging infra­struc­ture. Throw in cli­mate impacts, and the road ahead looks even more challenging.

The city’s neigh­bor­hoods could real­ly ben­e­fit from the inclu­sion of a few hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars in addi­tion­al invest­ments in this levy, beyond what Har­rell added.

For exam­ple, it’s prob­a­ble that dur­ing the time peri­od this levy is in force, Sound Tran­sit will begin con­struc­tion on light rail to Bal­lard and West Seat­tle. It would be worth adding resources to mit­i­gate con­struc­tion impacts and ensure main­te­nance work and com­ple­men­tary infra­struc­ture improve­ments are done at the same time, so streets won’t have to be ripped up again after they’ve been rebuilt.

The levy won’t be final­ized until the Coun­cil trans­mits it to vot­ers, so there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to add in more invest­ments in the com­ing weeks. The new Coun­cil has so far been more inter­est­ed in revis­it­ing the deci­sions of the past than work­ing to secure the future. With this levy, they have a chance to piv­ot. And they should take it.

Andrew Villeneuve

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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