Council opts to stay out of fiscal fray
August 28, 2008 · Updated 10:33 AM
MARYSVILLE The Marysville City Council opted to stay out of the fiscal fray, passing on the chance to formally endorse a multi-billion roads and transit package on the November ballot.
The Region Transit Investment District package is a $17.8 billion deal for Pierce, King and Snohomish counties that would build new roads and light rail projects. The package is split between two areas: one will be served by the Sound Transit improvements, the other wont. Marysville is just outside the boundaries for the rail service sector and will be voting on the less expensive portion.
The Council heard city engineer Kevin Nielsen explain how projects far outside the city boundaries could help ease congestion problems in town. At their Sept. 24 meeting Nielsen said so many drivers flow through Marysville streets when highways get backed up that proposed improvements to the US 2 trestle could help reduce traffic at the citys southern end.
The RTID package carries a number of proposed solutions for the I-5 corridor from Smokey Point south. They include:
$68 million for widening 172nd Street in Arlington to five lanes from 43rd Avenue east to SR 9.
$20 million for widening 88th Street NE to five lanes from State Avenue to 67th Avenue NE in Marysville.
$42 million for an improved freeway interchange at 88th Street.
$27.4 million for 116th Street NE.
$428 million for a new westbound lane on US 2.
$486 million to improve SR 9 from the city of Snohomish to Lake Stevens.
While several of proposed projects are outside the city limits, in some cases several miles away, Nielsen said commuters are stuck in their cars because the road system is broken and the whole system needs to be fixed. Those projects will help do that, he told the Council.
They are outside of Marysville but they are so critical to Marysville, Nielsen said.
The entire $17.8 billion RTID package has two components; $10.8 billion for Sound Transit projects and $7 billion for roads. Because Marysville is just outside the Sound Transit service area, voters will only be asked to approve their share of the $7 billion roads package. The RTID has two funding components, a general sales tax increase of .01 percent and a vehicle excise tax of $80 per $10,000 of the vehicle value.
The measure has more financial impact on the city. A lot of lobbying went on behind the scenes to get those north county projects on the final list, according to Chief Administrative Officer Mary Swenson. That was a crucial step, because Snohomish County will get just over $1.5 billion for roads, second highest of the three counties.
The 88th Street widening project will cost a total of $40 million, and both Snohomish County and the city of Marysville had to agree to each pitch in $10 million to help cover the tab. That was the only project with a shared funding component, Nielsen said.
We had to kick in some money, to get 88th Street on the list, Swenson said.
In the end the Council opted not to vote on a resolution urging voters to support the ballot measure, largely at the request of Councilman Jeff Vaughan, who felt that Council support could backfire with voters.
He was also leery of getting involved with urging voters to vote on any funding measure, not just the RTID package. In the past the Council has urged voters to get informed and to vote, regardless of how they feel, except for the Sept. 20, 2005 Marysville School District construction bond, where the Council took a stand and asked voters to approve the property tax increase.
Vaughan said the road projects were critical to the area and he was happy to see them on the ballot but was concerned about taking sides on issues like this.
His peers had other ideas. Councilwoman Donna Wright said voters look to the Council for leadership and that the city needs to start someplace.
For Councilwoman Carmen Rasmussen it was important to help inform citizens of the RTIDs importance. If the Council did back the measure, she wanted the support to be unanimous.
If we dont get something started now, it just gets worse and worse, Rasmussen said.
But Councilman Jeff Seibert discounted the panels worth.
It seems like every time we support something it gets shot down, he laughed.
The Council opted to consider just urging people to vote on the measure at their next cycle.