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New funding proposed for transit and roads

On Feb. 11, 2014, the King County Council formed the King County Transportation District, as authorized by Washington's  transportation benefit district law (Chapter 36.73 RCW). Transportation benefit districts have the authority to ask voters to approve funding for transit, roads, and other transportation purposes.

The County Council members make up the board of the King County Transportation District. On Feb. 24, the board approved a resolution to put a funding measure up for a public vote on April 22.

The Transportation District is proposing a $60 annual vehicle fee and a one-tenth-of-a-cent increase in the sales tax; both would sunset after 10 years. Based on current financial forecasts, these sources would generate about $130 million annually. 

Forty percent of the funds would be distributed on the basis of population to the 39 cities in King County and to the King County road fund for the unincorporated area of the county. These funds would be used for roads and other transportation improvements.

Sixty percent of the funds would be distributed to King County. The funds would be used first to fill Metro Transit's funding gap and preserve Metro's current level of service. Once current services are funded, any revenue from the 60 percent share would be equally distributed for Metro and for unincorporated area road purposes.

What is the current funding situation?

novelty hill roadKing County Road Services manages 1,500 miles of county roads and 180 bridges that carry more than 1 million trips per day. The 250,000 residents of unincorporated areas  receive roadway, drainage, shoulder, and right-of-way maintenance and operations services directly from King County. These systems were built over many generations and range from poor condition to newly built. An asset management analysis found that asset conditions are becoming increasingly poor.

The funding Road Services receives from local property tax, gas tax and grant funding has declined by one-third since 2009. The amount of revenue available for the county road system is projected to be an average of $90 million per year for 2014 through 2024, while the annual investment necessary to maintain the current condition of the existing road system is about $200 million. Learn more
Metro riders boarding busMetro Transit provides a range of public transportation services including buses, vanpools, and paratransit service for people with disabilities. Metro provided nearly 118 million passenger trips in 2013.

Metro receives about half of its operating funds from sales tax, and funding from this source fell during the economic downturn. Metro has cut costs, made operations more efficient by following recommendations of an independent performance audit, tapped reserve funds, found new sources of revenue, and raised fares four times in four years (a total 80 percent increase). These and other actions have saved or raised $798 million, preserving most bus service between 2009 and 2013. But after temporary funding runs out in mid-2014, Metro's annual revenue will fall as much as $75 million short of what is necessary to maintain current service. If no new funding becomes available, Metro is planning to cut up to 17 percent of service beginning in fall 2014. Learn more
City road crew at work Cities in King County maintain 5,500 miles of streets plus bridges, sidewalks, drainage systems, traffic signals and trails. Revenue sources currently available to cities are not keeping pace with the costs of replacing aging facilities and expanding to meet growth.

Learn more

King County Transportation District website


King County Transportation District ballot resolution 

Sales tax forecast

Metro Transit relies on sales tax for about half of its operating revenue. A March 2014 forecast shows increasing sales tax revenues. Find out what this means for Metro.