The last item on your ballot may be one of the most important for our daily lives in Bellingham. It’s the renewal of the Bellingham Transportation Fund: Proposition 2020-14.
The Transportation Fund’s Great Work
When they voted on it ten years ago, Bellingham voters overwhelmingly approved what was then called the Transportation Benefit District (TBD). At the time, a major motivation was to help the Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) restore Sunday service, which it had dropped in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession. WTA’s own finances were restored after a few years, and it no longer needed help from the TBD. At that time, the TBD was renamed the Transportation Fund and was incorporated directly into the city’s organizational structure instead of being a separate “district.” The geographic area involved remained the same. Everything the Fund collects is dedicated solely to transportation projects in Bellingham.
Since the adoption of the Fund, Hamsters have enjoyed a stream of projects that make our city a safer and more pleasant place to live. These projects include repaving major roadways like Holly Street, Roeder Avenue, Bill McDonald Parkway, and West Maplewood Avenue, just to name a few, with plans for Telegraph Road and many others in the works.
Things have gotten better for pedestrians, too: more miles of sidewalks and more crosswalks, some of them, if they are on busy streets, with flashing lights to aid safe crossing. The city has put in bike lanes and other bike facilities to make things clearer and safer for both bicyclists and drivers. The Fund continues to support WTA with projects like bus pullouts, sidewalks, and crosswalks leading to bus stops.
In order to create more affordable and equitable transportation options, non-motorized projects have been prioritized for areas with many low and moderate income households. And every project— including repaving—brings the location to ADA accessibility standards.
Through 2019, the Fund has generated $43 million for local transportation projects. Not only that, but we’ve been able to garner $4.3 million in matching federal or state funds, for example, through their respective Safe Routes to School programs.
One significant benefit for the community is that literally all the work on these projects has been done by contractors from Whatcom or Skagit counties. These are local funds for local projects and local jobs.
All this means that getting around is safer and more convenient for everyone. It’s all interlinked. Smoother streets mean that trucks, buses, and cars have less maintenance to contend with. People on bikes don’t have to dodge cracks and potholes. With more connected facilities, more people can walk, take the bus, or use a bike if they want. That means the streets are safer for everyone!
On top of that are the benefits to our climate. It’s a win all around. Transportation accounts for a significant portion of Bellingham’s greenhouse gas emissions and the City has committed to taking action to reduce such emissions.
Now We Need to Renew the Fund
As things stand, the Fund requires renewal this year. Bellingham Transportation Fund Renewal—Proposition 2020-14—is on the ballot. It’s the ballot measure we need to approve. Make sure you look for it! It will be the last item on the ballot.
Prop 2020-14 will continue the priorities of the existing Transportation Fund: repaving major roadways, accessibility upgrades, non-motorized projects, and infrastructure support for WTA. One thing in the renewal is new, however, as it will fund projects to address transportation-related climate change.
No Increase in Taxes
Since Prop 2020-14 is a renewal of the Transportation Fund there will be no increase in taxes. Extending the existing Fund will continue the present 0.2% of sales tax – the source of Fund revenue. That level of sales tax remains the same – two cents on a purchase of $10.00 – which is paid by both visitors and residents.
COVID Makes It Even More Urgent
The COVID emergency makes renewing the Fund particularly urgent. For one thing, as I said earlier, all the work on the various Fund projects has been performed by local contractors. Local funds support local jobs. We need to continue to support our local contractors in these hard times.
Beyond that, Bellingham families need and use the facilities the Fund provides to help them get to work, shopping, trails, and even someday to school. The Transportation Fund provides low cost transit and non-motorized options to help everyone get where they need to go. In other words, with COVID the people of Bellingham will need the Fund even more in their daily lives.
But we just need it! Please vote YES for Prop 2020-14 when you receive your ballots!
For further information:
The City of Bellingham’s web page describing the work the Fund has made possible in the last ten years.