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Council faces budget choices on bike share, safe streets

SDOT budget changes under consideration. View full document and dig further into details via this PDF.
SDOT budget changes under consideration. View full document and dig further into details via this PDF.

Seattle’s City Council will work Tuesday and Wednesday this week to come up with their changes to Mayor Ed Murray’s 2017-18 budget, getting it ready for final passage Monday. We already told you about some of the changes on the table for bike share and some of the proposals pushed by safe streets groups like Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club. So what made it this far?

Here’s a look at the walking and biking changes facing the Council and who is sponsoring them:

  • Council may proviso all spending on Multimodal Corridor Projects (except Madison BRT), requiring SDOT to present to Council and get approval before moving forward with them. This includes Delridge, Market/45th, Rainier/Jackson, Roosevelt, Route 40 Northgate to Downtown, and 23rd Ave BRT. Burgess.
  • Citing the failed TIGER grant application for bike share and the Northgate bike/walk bridge, some Councilmembers want to require Council approval before SDOT applies for grants larger than $5 million. I worry that this may have unintended consequences, since grant deadlines and Council schedules may not always line up well. We do want SDOT to be as aggressive as possible in bringing in grant funds to support local investments. Burgess, O’Brien.
  • Invest $400,000 to assess the condition of city sidewalks. This was a great suggestion by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. The city already spends time and money assessing road pavement conditions, but waits for organized complaints from residents before fixing heaved and broken sidewalks. Complaint-based systems tend to benefit wealthier and more privileged residents who have the time and resources to log them with the city. O’Brien, Johnson.
  • Accelerate Bike Master Plan funding. O’Brien.
  • Put a clear proviso on all bike share expansion funds, requiring Council approval before moving forward with a new system. Burgess.
  • Remove operational funds for Pronto Cycle Share, essentially shutting it down at the beginning of 2017. Herbold.
  • Invest $150,000 in a North Beacon Hill safe streets and multimodal transportation study. Harrell.
  • Accelerate Accessible Mount Baker funding. Harrell.
  • Invest $1 million to extend the existing Rainier Ave safety project in Columbia City and Hillman City south to Rainier Beach. Harrell.
  • A proposed “statement of legislative intent” would require the Center City Connector Streetcar project to generate a report about streetcar/bike safety. O’Brien, Bagshaw, Johnson.
  • Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ proposal to add $3 million to the Vision Zero program didn’t get any takers so far, but Councilmember Burgess has proposed a nearly identical amount for unspecified additional paving work. Burgess.

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What happens to the budget under Trump?

President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to cancel all Federal funding going to “sanctuary cities” that direct employees not to check the immigration status of residents except in certain law enforcement contexts. Seattle is rightfully one of these cities, and Mayor Ed Murray has said the city will remain so no matter Trump’s threats.

Seattle Bike Blog fully supports Mayor Murray and all our neighbors in this. We live in troubling times when the incoming President pits city budgets against its own residents. But we have to stick together.

What would such cuts mean for the Seattle budget? Well, we don’t know yet. Maybe Trump won’t follow through, or maybe the cuts will be limited to immigration-based work. Kevin Schofield at the Seattle City Council Insight blog dug into the proposed 2017-18 budget and found about $239 million in expected Federal funds. If the worst case happens and all Federal funds are cut, the Seattle Department of Transportation would be the hardest hit:

This afternoon I crawled through the city’s budget. I found $99 million in accepted federal grants in 2016, and an expectation of $65 million in 2017 and $174 million in 2018.

Here’s the full spreadsheet.

The big loser would be SDOT; it stands to lose $10.2 million in 2017 and $118.3 million in 2018. And actually, it’s much worse, because SDOT is counting on another $75 million in next year’s as-yet-unapproved federal budget for the new Center City Streetcar line that it hasn’t added to the city’s official budget yet. But SDOT would also lose almost $55 million  for the South Lander Street overpass, $10 million for the Broadway streetcar extension, $8 million for bridge repair and replacement, $4.2 million for the electrification of Metro bus route 48, and almost $77 million in miscellaneous funds for operating and maintaining transportation corridors in the city in 2017 and the years beyond.

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3 responses to “Council faces budget choices on bike share, safe streets”

  1. Skylar

    Why can’t we channel some (or all) of that money through WSDOT or Sound Transit? If Trump can use shell companies for his own private benefit, then we should be able to use them for public benefit.

  2. Law Abider

    This is a good list, except for the first three bullets. The first two just seem to be, as Tom implied in the second bullet, a way for the Council to get their grubby hands into everything, causing unnecessary inefficiencies and delays to projects. It seems more like a show of power by the Council than anything else.

    The third bullet makes me face palm. We already have very little budget towards fixing our deteriorating and/or nonexistent sidewalks. While that $400,000 wouldn’t go far, maybe a mile or two of sidewalk, I highly doubt that $400,000 is going to actually do anything positive.

    I’m ignoring the bike share items, because the Council has no freakin’ clue what they want to do.

  3. cory

    I would like to see some investment in the Rainier Valley Greenway – seems to have been off the radar for some time now.

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