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Bellingham Transportation Fund: Time to Renew

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• Topics: Bellingham,

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.

Non-motorized projects have been prioritized.
Non-motorized projects have been prioritized.

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:

Neighbors for the Bellingham Transportation Fund

The City of Bellingham’s web page describing the work the Fund has made possible in the last ten years.

Comments by Readers

Jon Humphrey

Oct 23, 2020

Thanks for the great article Stoney. My concern with any infrastructure improvements is that the city still has not taken the common sense step of adopting a Dig Once Policy. So while I do agree that we need more mass transit and non-motorized transport ASAP, improvements done without a Dig Once Policy seem poorly thought out. A Dig Once Policy would guarantee that these improvements would be done in the most cost-effective manner possible while doing the least damage to the environemnt when excavation is involved. After all, no trip is as ecologically friendly, or safe, as a digital one. The way the city does work now guaranttees that we’ll have to dig our roads up again in the near future to put in underground services we should have put in when we originally did the excavation. 

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Stoney Bird

Oct 25, 2020

Excellent point, Jon. I’ll try to keep a Dig Once Policy at the forefront in future things that I write. May the City do likewise when planning and carrying out projects!

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Nicholas Sotak

Oct 25, 2020

“...no trip is as ecologically friendly, or safe, as a digital one.”

 

This sounds like advocating for, what I would consider, a dyspotian future. I doubt that was your intention, Jon, but it’s worth pointing out that getting fresh air, moving your body, and seeing other people should be as safe and ecologically friendly as possible.  The transportation fund helps to keep moving us in that direction.  Maybe this election will see enough change such that Bellingham also adopts public fiber and a dig once policy.

 

 

 

 

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Jon Humphrey

Oct 28, 2020

Point taken Nicholas. I was thining of the work day and fuel consumption. Yes, I agree that we need to make our transportation as eco-friendly as possible too. I spend as much time outside as possible and understand the many beneftis of doing so. I also wish I could get to more places via bicycle, bus, light rail, and more, safely and efficiently all around Whatcom County, not just the city. Still, if we’re doing excavation, why not do it as efficiently as possible. That’s my point.

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