Transportation Benefit District
Thurston County's Transportation System
Thurston County’s transportation system consists of over 1,038 miles of roadway, 147 bridges, 106 miles of sidewalks, 56 miles of trails, over 17,000 traffic control signs, and more than 1,000 street lights, along with a stormwater drainage and retention system. The system is the lifeblood of the local economy, connecting Thurston County’s nearly 300,000 residents to jobs, services, and other opportunities inside and outside the County.
Public Works operates and maintains County roadways and traffic control system devices. Roadway maintenance includes asphalt repairs, roadside mowing to improve line-of-sight for drivers, and drainage system improvements to prevent flooding. Traffic control system maintenance includes installing or fixing traffic signs, street lights, pedestrian traffic beacons, and traffic signals. To ensure safety and improved traffic conditions, Public Works also performs traffic studies and planning, revises speed limits as necessary, and improves the overall transportation system.
Transportation Benefit District Background
Washington State law allows cities and counties to create a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) that collects certain fees and taxes to help implement transportation projects within its boundaries. This legislation protects the revenue raised by the TBD by not allowing it to be used on other county programs. For more information about Washington State TBD Legislation, click here.
In 2014, Thurston County created a TBD covering the unincorporated areas of the County. It does not include any incorporated cities or towns, but it does include the urban growth areas just outside the city limits of the cities and towns.
The goal is to invest revenue raised by the TBD to improve Thurston County’s transportation network by making roads safer, increasing our investment in preservation, and updating our technology.
Poor road conditions are estimated to cost each Washington driver $656 worth of vehicle wear and tear every year*. We can keep roads in good shape by performing regular maintenance and preservation activities. TBD revenue can help fund roadway maintenance that reduces vehicle wear and tear costs for drivers, but also offers substantial cost savings for taxpayers. Minor roadway repairs can save 90% or more per mile compared to the cost of major reconstruction.
*Source: 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, American Society of Civil Engineers
- Pavement overlays
- Surface restoration
- Infrastructure rehabilitation
Source: Fehr & Peers
Traffic collisions are the 4th leading cause of death for Thurston County residents – between 2015 and 2019, there were 141 fatal and serious injury collisions in Thurston County*. Washington State has adopted Target Zero — a goal to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington's roadways to zero by the year 2030. Funds from the TBD will help Thurston County achieve Target Zero.
*Source: Washington State Department of Transportation
- Providing or replacing rumble strips (alerts drivers)
- Installing high friction surfacing at critical locations (allows cars to stop quickly to avoid hazards)
- Implement projects identified in the County-wide Local Road Safety Plan (identifies high priority projects of low, medium, and high cost, allowing dollars to be focused to get the biggest safety improvements for the least cost)
Investing TBD funds in state-of-the-art transportation technologies can improve the efficiency of our transportation system by reducing travel times, improving safety, and streamlining maintenance and reducing energy use.
- Transit/emergency vehicle signal priority (reduces travel time)
- Pedestrian crossing beacons (improve pedestrian safety)
- LED street light conversion (improves visibility, reduces power consumption and maintenance)
Potential Funding Sources
State law allows TBDs to collect two types of fees: board-approved and voter-approved fees. The TBD Board is considering two potential funding sources – (1) car tab fees requiring board approval and (2) a sales tax requiring voter approval.
Board approved fees
Annual vehicle license (car tab) fees start at $20 per year and can increase to no more than $50 after 4 years
Voter approved fees
A sales and use tax up to 0.2%, equivalent to 2 cents on a $10 purchase
Other funding options are available but not being considered at this time
Property tax—1-year excess levy
Thurston County's Transportation System by the Numbers
- More than 1,038 miles of roadway
- 147 bridges
- 106 miles of sidewalks
- 56 miles of trails
- More than 24 miles of guardrails
- More than 1,000 streetlights
- 1,170 Miles of public stormwater conveyance
- 12 traffic signals
- 93 stormwater ponds
- Over 17,000 traffic signs
- Estimated Total Value: $1 Billion
Thurston County Transportation Benefit District FAQs
The following criteria may be used to choose projects: Improved safety, preservation and maintenance of roadways and other transportation facilities, increased vehicle capacity, improved travel times, increased performance of the transportation system overall, other criteria established by the TBD Board.
Thurston County’s Transportation Benefit District only includes the unincorporated areas of the County. That does not include any incorporated cities or towns, but it does include the urban growth areas just outside the city limits of the cities and towns. Source: Fehr & Peers, 2018
The Thurston County TBD Board of Directors consists of all three members of the Thurston County Commission. For more information, visit Meet the Board
A TBD can fund transportation improvements contained in any existing state, regional, or local transportation plan that would address existing or foreseeable transportation needs in line with the goals of the TBD – system preservation, roadway safety, and updated technology. Projects must also be included within the boundaries of the TBD (see above). Examples include preservation projects such as sealing pavement cracks on County roads, safety projects such as pedestrian flashing beacons at crosswalks, and technology projects such as new traffic signals that reduce wait time.
State law allows TBDs to collect two types of fees: board-approved and voter-approved fees.
Board-approved fees include annual vehicle license (car tab) fees that start at $20 per year and can increase to no more than $50 after 4 years, and transportation impact fees on commercial and industrial buildings.
Voter-approved fees include a sales and use tax of up to 0.2%, a 1-year excess levy on property taxes, and vehicle tolls.
Yes. Exempt vehicles include:
- All farm vehicles
- Off-road vehicles
- Personal use trailers with a single axle and less than 2,000 pounds scale weight
- Combination trailers
- Trailers used exclusively for hauling logs
- Horseless carriage, collector, or restored-plate vehicles
- Converter gear
- Government vehicles
- Private school vehicles
- Vehicles properly registered to disabled American veterans
Sales tax of 0.2%: $1.5 million per year based on 2015 sales tax revenue.
Car tab fee of $20: $1.8 million per year
Car tab fee of $50: $4.7 million per year
1-year excess levy (property tax): $2.8 million per year
Transportation Impact Fees on commercial and industrial buildings: $140,000
Source: Thurston County TBD Informational Briefing, 15 May 2018
Roads will continue to deteriorate as insufficient funding is available for pavement preservation; and fewer roads will have fog lines, a proven, low-cost means of reducing traffic accidents.
The TBD board meets each month in open, public meetings. The public is encouraged to attend these meetings or tune into TCTV to learn more about the TBD.