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Revenue from TBD not enough according to Public Works department

LYNNWOOD, Wash, October 6, 2021 – The Lynnwood City Council received an update from the Public Works department highlighting possible budgeting shortfalls for current and upcoming transportation projects during their October 4 work session.

According to the presentation, the 2021-2022 budget allocates $7.7 million for various transportation projects. However, these projects are expected to need between $13.5 million and $22.6 million.

“Frankly, I think that’s why the state enacted and allowed for TBDs to be formed,” Public Works Director Bill Franz said. “They realized street funds are just not doing well in competition with all those other things that cities have to fund, like public safety and parks and administration.”

The TBD Franz mentions is the Transportation Benefit District. The Washington State Legislature passed a measure in 2007, RCW 36.73, that allows for the establishment of TBDs. When a TBD is established, cities can impose a local sales tax to fund local transportation projects. Lynnwood currently has a 0.1% addition to the sales tax for the TBD, which was approved by voters in 2016. This tax increase generates an estimated $2.5 million per year and will last until 2027.

“Our main funding sources have kind of held stagnant over the last 10, 20 years,” Franz said. “We’re effectively capped at about $2 million for general funds and $1.9 million for gas tax. So what that means is that we’ve relied more and more every year on TBD funds. The more we rely on TBD funds for that daily maintenance, the less we have to do these other programs like overlays and sidewalk work and things like that.”

This, according to Franz, has resulted in the city falling behind on maintenance as work is reactive rather than proactive, which also increases costs. Think about a road in layers: the more layers a crew needs to go through to complete a repair, the more expensive that project becomes. Proactive pavement management and surface repairs are relatively easy and thus more cost effective. Extensive damage either requires crews to dig deeper into the pavement or results in full reconstruction.

Lynnwood has been successful in competing for grants, however. On average, 41% of the funding for current projects is expected to come from the city and the remaining 59% from grants.

“We are confident we’ll be able to land that grant funding and we’re really hopeful we’ll be able to do better than what’s in that column and therefore not need as much as you see in the city column,” Franz said. 

City crews are currently responsible for: 300 lane miles of streets, 120 miles of sidewalks, 65 traffic signals, 4400 traffic signs, 160,000 traffic buttons, 95,000 square feet of thermoplastic and 1000 gallons of paint on a daily basis. According to Franz, there are only four crews that maintain the streets and two crews for the traffic signals.  

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