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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Ramiro Chavez, Public Works Dept. Director at (360) 867-2271 or Chavezr@co.thurston.wa.us
Scott Davis, Traffic Engineering & Operations Manager at (360) 867-2345 or Davissa@co.thurston.wa.us

Dec. 16 Hearing on Transportation Benefit District Proposal
Commissioners consider forming a district to help fund road maintenance and preservation

The Thurston County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, December 16 at 5:30 p.m. to receive public comment on a proposal to create a Transportation Benefit District in unincorporated Thurston County. Commissioners are considering the creation of the district to address the growing need for maintenance and preservation of the county's roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure.

State law authorizes cities and counties in Washington to create local transportation benefit districts to help fund public transit operations and local transportation infrastructure, and those transportation benefit districts are allowed to collect various fees and taxes. Among those funding options, transportation benefit districts are allowed to collect an annual car licensing fee of up to $20 without voter approval.

Thurston County Commissioners will take public testimony on a proposal to create a transportation benefit district that would cover only the unincorporated areas of the county. If commissioners approve the transportation benefit district proposal, they could also choose to include a $20 annual car licensing fee for vehicles registered in unincorporated Thurston County. The car licensing fee would raise approximately
$1.8 million annually for preservation and maintenance of the county's transportation infrastructure.

"Over the years, inflation and rising costs for materials and labor have eaten away at the county's buying power. That means we're losing ground each year on our ability to maintain our existing roads infrastructure and provide the current level of service, let alone make investments in new projects to keep up with our growing population," said Ramiro Chavez, Director of the county's Public Works Department.

"We're exploring our options with the transportation benefit district because preserving our road infrastructure today will actually save money in the long run," said Chavez. "If we don't invest now and we wait until our roads and bridges reach the point of failure, it can cost us two times or even three times as much money to replace those roads and bridges. But if we use the transportation benefit district funds to make strategic investments now and protect what we already have, we can avoid those much larger costs."

As part of the proposal, Chavez and staff from the county's Public Works Department have outlined programs for infrastructure preservation, improved safety, and improved technology as the three main strategies for the county's proposed transportation benefit district. If county commissioners approve the proposal, the three commissioners would form the new district's board of directors, and would develop and approve a specific work plan and list of projects.

Thurston County's transportation system has an estimated value of more than $750 million and includes:
  • More than 1,000 miles of roadway
  • 109 bridges
  • 47 miles of trails
  • More than 110 miles of sidewalks
  • More than 23 miles of guardrail
  • More than 17,000 traffic signs

While the county's transportation system is extensive, it also is aging and struggling to keep up with population growth:
  • 30 percent of the county's bridges are more than 45 years old.

  • Without new funding for maintenance and preservation, 63 percent of the county's roads will be rated in "poor condition" in 10 years.

  • Since 2004, the cost to chipseal one mile of roadway has more than doubled.

  • Commercial vehicle trips are expected to increase by 24 percent in the next 10 years and move more than 400 million tons of goods each year.

For more information about the transportation benefit district proposal, the county's transportation infrastructure, and the work of the county's Public Works Department, please visit www.co.thurston.wa.us/publicworks.

WHAT: Public Hearing on Transportation Benefit District Proposal

WHEN: Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: County Courthouse Building One, Room 280 at 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW in Olympia, 98502



County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3