As the Council entered the final month of deliberations on the 2011 budget, members turned their attention to identifying strategies to meet long-term transportation funding needs.
Last week the Council learned from the executive that the funding gap for county roads is projected to reach approximately $263 million by 2025. State law requires counties to adopt a plan that addresses known transportation needs over a 20-year period.
“There’s no doubt that the gap is substantial in the out years, but we still have time to fix the problem. The Council is firmly committed to closing the gap,” said Council Chair Dave Gossett. Councilmember Dave Somers agreed that the county needs to adopt a realistic plan to address the gap in order to keep Snohomish County in a strong financial position in future years.
“We’ve worked very hard to keep Snohomish County in a strong financial position. While planning for today is critical, we must always keep our eye on the future to anticipate needs and plan accordingly,” Somers said.
Acknowledging that the creation of such a plan will require the efforts of both the legislative and executive branches, Council Public Works Committee Chair Stephanie Wright commented that she is “looking forward to working with my fellow Councilmembers and the Executive to develop a detailed plan that will put the county on track to address our needs.”
Councilmembers discussed the need to seek competitive funding from state and federal levels of government to supplement local funding. The Council is also considering establishing a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) to provide an additional source of funding for essential transportation projects.
“Given the high priority that the public places on fixing traffic problems we have to look at all of the the tools available to us,” said Councilmember Brian Sullivan. “The public has told us they prefer user fees to general tax increases, and the TBD will only collect fees paid by people who drive on our roads.”
Providing a solid infrastructure has emerged as a priority for the Council as members discuss options for distributing limited county resources.
“Investing in our county’s physical infrastructure will improve the quality of life for all our residents, and will keep us competitive as the economy improves,” said Councilmember Wright. “We must take steps to ensure that we are not the first generation to leave our infrastructure in worse shape than we found it.”
Council Chair Dave Gossett is expected to release his budget to the Council by November 15. A public hearing on that budget is scheduled for Monday, November 22.