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Council poised to send $1.55B transportation levy to voters

Table of July 2 Councilmember votes on various amendments.
How Councilmembers voted on proposed amendments during the July 2 committee meeting. The chair’s amendment is a large amendment that included a bunch of requests and additions from councilmembers and raised the total to $1.55 billion.

Seattle voters will have an opportunity this November to pass the largest city investment in transportation infrastructure in recent memory.

Assuming the Seattle City Council does not make any additional changes to their amended levy proposal (spending breakdown PDF) before final approval next week, the 2024 Seattle Transportation Levy will put $1.55 billion into repairing and improving Seattle’s streets over the next eight years, a decent increase over the expiring 9-year Move Seattle Levy even when accounting for inflation.

Transportation advocates and labor groups pushed for a more ambitious $1.75 billion version, but only Cathy Moore (D5) and amendment sponsor Tammy Morales (D2) voted Tuesday for the additional funds. It is notable that Districts 2 and 5 are also the districts most in need of basic transportation infrastructure improvements like bike lanes, sidewalks and traffic calming.


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Now that the $1.55 billion version is very likely headed to voters, transportation advocates will need to figure out where they stand on the measure and what role they are going to play in the campaign to approve it. Seattle Subway has already signaled that their org is opposed due to a lack of guaranteed transit funding, they said via social media. This is a worrying sign for the mayor and Council since the pro-levy campaign is going to need volunteers willing to knock on doors and make phone calls, and walk/bike/transit advocates along with organized labor did a lot of that heavy lifting during the 2015 Move Seattle campaign. Any questions about the levy’s dedication to improving transit is a huge liability in transit-loving Seattle.

On the other hand, it’s not clear that voting down this measure would lead to a better levy later, at least not with the current City Council. Seattle’s opportunity to put together the levy of advocates’ dreams passed us by in November 2023 when the voters failed to elect a Council majority promising to champion walking, biking and transit. Instead, the proposed levy largely continues the Move Seattle scope of work, though with notable increases in funding for street paving and sidewalks and the notable absence of funding for the streetcar.

Where the Move Seattle Levy over-promised about many specific improvements, especially for transit corridors and bike lane mileage, the proposed levy is a bit light on specifics. This means advocates are going to need to fight for every single project as they come, just like they always do. The Seattle Transportation Plan, a Mayor Bruce Harrell document, lays out a fairly ambitious future for the city’s streets, and the proposed levy will fund a significant increase in the number of those streets that will be repaved. The question facing advocates is whether they think they can win those battles project-by-project over the next eight years.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways celebrated that the levy is better than when it was initially proposed, even if it “is only about half of what Seattle needs in the next 8 years to reach its climate goals and reach Vision Zero.” From their blog post:

5 Big Wins Worth Celebrating

  1. $66.5 million for a new people streets and public spaces program for the first time in Seattle’s history, including $10 million for pedestrian lighting to increase visibility and safety at night, and a study to Lid I-5, an important next step to provide more public land and urban freeway mitigation.
  2. $145 million in funding for sidewalk construction and repair, a 75% increase over the Mayor’s initial proposal in April. This will build 350 blocks of new sidewalks over the next 8 years. This is less than we were pushing for, considering Seattle’s 11,000 blocks of missing sidewalks, but still increases Seattle’s rate of new sidewalk construction by over 40%.
  3. $113.5 million for bike safety. While the list of promised bike routes is disappointingly short, this funding represents an increase over the inflation-adjusted Move Seattle Levy and will build critical bike projects including N 130th St, Beacon Ave S, and S Henderson St.
  4. $41 million for a new equity-focused program for neighborhood-initiated safety projects. This program was crafted and proposed by SDOT’s Transportation Equity Workgroup to highlight and prioritize community ideas and will increase the equitable distribution of safety-focused spending.
  5. $70 million for Vision Zero, including safety projects on all of Seattle’s top 5 most dangerous streets: Aurora Ave N, Martin Luther King Jr. Way S, 4th Ave S, Rainier Ave S, and Lake City Way.

I have not seen any major advocacy calls to action to try to get the Council to make any last-minute additions to the levy before passing it during the full council Tuesday (tomorrow), though any additions for transit and safe streets would certainly be helpful and welcome.


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One response to “Council poised to send $1.55B transportation levy to voters”

  1. JB

    Any funding of car infrastructure from general taxes rather than user fees is an abomination. Having said that, I would vote for a levy with up to about 35% funding for car projects in order to get the bike, pedestrian, and transit improvements that we really need. Bruce Harrell seems like a decent guy, but in the absence of specific and enforceable funding benchmarks, what’s to keep the next Amoral Durkan from hoovering up all the bike money for her favorite car projects again? Thanks but no thanks.

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