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County council mulls transportation district

A Sound Transit rider prepares to board a bus at the Bellevue Transit Center on Wednesday (Jan. 15). - Brandon Macz
A Sound Transit rider prepares to board a bus at the Bellevue Transit Center on Wednesday (Jan. 15).
— image credit: Brandon Macz

Tired of waiting for a transportation plan to pass in the state Legislature, King County Executive Dow Constantine on Tuesday announced his plan for filling a funding gap that would spare public transit service, but depend on the will of voters.

Faced with a $75 million funding gap, King County Metro is proposing a 17-percent reduction in transit services that would affect 28 of 33 routes in Bellevue, including changes to routes to Bellevue College being moved further from the institution.

With no clear sign of when state lawmakers will agree on a transportation plan that includes public transportation funding, Constantine is proposing the King County Council approve forming a transportation benefit district. This would allow the district to go to voters for the right impose vehicle fees and sales taxes to shore up lost revenue. Metro will lose $25 million when a $20 vehicle congestion reduction fee approved by the Legislature expires in June.

Constantine proposed the County Council take public input and discuss formation of a transportation district with formation possible in February to place the funding measure on the April ballot. To provide an estimated $130 million in revenue, Constantine proposes the ballot include a $60 car-tab fee and one-tenth of a cent sales tax with 60 percent of revenues going to Metro Transit and 40 percent to fund local road and other transportation projects.

A 25-cent across-the-board fare increase also is proposed to start in March 2015, and is estimated to raise $6.6 million annually.Bellevue city councilmembers Tuesday approved a letter to King County Metro preserving frequent service routes in favor of focusing reductions and lost routes on routes that receive less ridership. The letter did not address funding, upon which they were updated that night.

"There's a broader problem in Olympia of not providing funding for transportation of all stripes and we really need to have a conversation and be aware of the impact this conversation might have on that conversation," said Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace, "and continue to push on a more statewide, I think, effort to solve the problem."

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