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Seattle’s $1.55B transportation levy set to go on November ballot

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(The Center Square) – Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has signed off on a $1.55 billion transportation levy, setting up voters to have the final say this November on the largest tax proposal in city history.

If the levy is approved, generated fund money would go toward building sidewalks, paving streets, repairing bridges, and improving transit connections, among other transportation needs.

The eight-year levy package is expected to cost a median homeowner in Seattle approximately $546 a year if passed by voters.

The current Levy to Move Seattle, which expires at the end of 2024, represents roughly 30% of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s budget. The median property tax bill for the expiring levy in 2024 is $300.

Harrell acknowledged the size of the proposed $1.55 billion levy, but said the funding will benefit future generations.

“Yes, that’s a lot of money, but [the levy is for] the treasures, and the payoff, and the benefits for our children and our grandchildren,” Harrell said at a Wednesday press conference.

The biggest portion of generated funding – $330 million – would go toward arterial roadway maintenance. Approximately 15 major corridors are planned to be repaved.

Another $115 million would go toward transit improvements on streets with high ridership bus routes and create better access to Sound Transit light rail stations.

The third largest allocation of levy funds is $111 million for the construction at least 350 blocks of new sidewalks.

The levy puts $70 million toward the city’s Vision Zero program, which supports traffic safety projects with the ambitious goal of ending traffic deaths and injuries in Seattle by 2030.

Prior to the city council’s approval of the proposed levy on Tuesday, councilmembers signed off on an amendment that would utilize $20 million in funding to complete the gap in the 20-mile-long Burke-Gilman Trail within the Ballard neighborhood. Harrell said that has been an issue for more than 30 years.

While city officials touted the levy proposal, some former Seattle leaders are voicing concern and frustration with the proposed levy’s potential impact on homeowners and businesses in the city.

“This troublesome transportation tax increase is like the Titanic – too big, hardest on the poor, and destined to fail everyone,” former Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen said in a statement. “It’s insensitive for politicians to act like cheerleaders for such a massive transportation tax increase while renters, homeowners, and small businesses struggle to stay in Seattle.”

The general election is Nov. 5.

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