$1.55B Seattle transportation levy signed by mayor to go to November ballot

The fate of a massive Seattle transportation levy will be decided by voters in November

On Wednesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell signed into law the legislation that will place the $1.55 billion transportation levy on the election ballot.

"We are rebuilding this city in so many ways to reach all communities to keep them safe," said Harrell during a signing event at City Hall. "We’re giving people choices centered around the value of safety."

This is Seattle’s priciest transportation levy proposal ever. It focuses on increasing safety, maintenance and modernization of Seattle’s transportation infrastructure over the next eight years, if approved by voters.

"Prevent traffic collisions, severe injuries and fatalities on our streets," said Harrell. Clearly, the decision makers in crafting this levy understood that everyone who lives and works or visits Seattle … they must feel safe and comfortable door to door."

Seattle city leaders say the levy would fund the following investments:

  • $403 million in street maintenance and modernization
  • $221 million in bridge infrastructure and safety
  • $193 million in pedestrian safety
  • $160.5 million in Vision Zero and school and neighborhood safety
  • $151 million in improving transit corridors and connections
  • $133.5 million for bicycle safety
  • $100 million to install and maintain traffic signals and improve mobility
  • $69 million to better address climate change, protect the environment, and increase our tree canopy
  • $66.5 million to activate public spaces, neighborhoods, and business districts
  • $45 million for economy-focused improvements to our freight transportation system
  • $7.5 million for good governance, oversight, and property tax relief education

"We have heavier loads on the road, we have more traffic than we ever have before because the population here has grown exponentially. And now we need to ensure that the infrastructure of the city catches up with the new population," said Katie Garrow, executive secretary and treasurer of MLK Labor.

Paying for all the new improvements would come out of the pockets of taxpayers. Under this levy proposal, the estimated cost for the median homeowner is about $44 per month, about $21 per month more than the current levy which expires at the end of 2024.

City leaders and community advocates say they recognize the price hike is asking a lot from voters.

"But when we give people the facts, I firmly believe that when we explain what the need is and what the investments are, people will agree that voting yes to ‘Move Seattle’ is indeed the only reasonable option," said Garrow. 

Alex Pedersen, former Seattle City Councilmember and 2020-2023 chair of the Transportation Committee, said voters should reject the levy.

 "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?" said Pedersen. "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."

City leaders said the levy would also expand Seattle Department of Transportation’s budget. This would increase SDOT’s opportunity for more core services, new projects and new jobs.

sseattle skyline with freeways before sunset

The downtown Seattle skyline before sunset.  (Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Highlights of the Seattle transportation levy:

  • 350 new blocks of sidewalks and walkways (about 22 miles) and 34,000 repairs to existing sidewalks.
  • 160 projects to improve bus trip reliability and connect people to light rail stations while prioritizing safety, reliability, and accessibility.
  • A new preventative bridge maintenance program and planning for longer-term replacements.
  • 15 paving projects to maintain and modernize Seattle’s streets and get people and goods where they need to go.
  • Improvements to Seattle’s bicycle network with new protected bike lanes, added bike lane barriers, regular bike lane sweeping, completing the gap in the Burke-Gilman Trail, and more bike facilities in south Seattle.

City council unanimously passed the transportation levy package Tuesday. Levy committee chair Rob Saka said he hopes Seattle voters will also support it.

"This transportation levy is about us investing in our people," said Saka. "This is a cost-effective investment that will save lives. Through collaboration and compromise, we have won a consensus levy proposal that will deliver on the everyday basics in an extraordinary way. 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."


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