Urban Politics #127: Resolution On Use Of City Right-Of-Way

No Comments (Leave Comment)

By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • Resolution On Use Of City Right-Of-Way
  • State Legislation Passed
  • Funding Options
  • Timeline For Ballot Measure
  • State Legislation Request
  • Monorail Ad-Hoc Committee Future Items

Resolution On Use Of City Right-Of-Way

At Friday’s (3/22/02) Monorail Ad-Hoc Committee meeting, I sponsored a resolution “stating the intent of the Seattle City Council and Mayor to allow use of City right-of-way to construct and/or operate a monorail transit system in Seattle, and to negotiate an agreement with a future Seattle Popular Transit Authority (SPTA) to allow this use.”

The committee members (Licata, Conlin, Nicastro, Wills) passed the resolution by a 4-0 vote. It now moves on to a vote at the Full Council on Monday, April 1. The Elevated Transportation Company (ETC) requested this resolution on the use of right of way.

The resolution is designed to meet the spirit of Initiative 53, the measure passed by Seattle voters in November, 2000. Initiative 53 stated “The City must facilitate this measure in any way needed includingÉdedication or use of any rights of way.”

Clarification on the use of right of way also helps the ETC in preparing cost estimates. In addition, the resolution sends a signal to firms that might bid on a monorail that the City is serious in following through on the monorail effort, if voters choose to pursue it. An agreement will be drawn up between the City and the ETC or successor agency to implement use of street right of way, if the voters pass a monorail measure.

An earlier version of the resolution was discussed in the February 22 meeting of the Monorail Ad-Hoc Committee, and an amendment was passed at today’s meeting clarifying the that any Seattle Popular Transit Authority (which, under Initiative 53, will be created to build a monorail if voters approve) will not be charged for use of City-right-of-way, and that any needed expansion of right of way will be negotiated.

State Legislation Passed

The Washington state legislature recently passed Engrossed Senate Substitute Bill 6464, which allows Seattle voters to create a new transportation authority to build and operate a monorail. It is currently awaiting signature from Governor Locke.

The bill can be accessed at the State Legislature’s website at http://www.leg.wa.gov/wsladm/billinfo/dspBillSummary.cfm?billnumber=6464 .

Funding Options

The bill allows the authority (which under I-53 would be the Seattle Popular Transit Authority [SPTA]) four taxing options, listed below, along with the maximum amount each could generate:

1. Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET), at re-licensing (up to 2.5%). Approx $4.5m per year per 1/10%. So, $45m per 1%, or up to $112m per year could be raised.

2. Vehicle Licensing Fee, at re-licensing (up to $100). Approx $4.2m per year per $10. So up to $42m per year could be raised.

3. Tax on Car Rentals (up to 1.944%). Up to $500,000-$750,000 per year could be raised.

4. Regular Property Tax Levy (up to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value). Based on the city’s total assessed value of approximately $65b, $6.5m would be generated per 10 cents of tax per $1,000 of AV. So up to $97m per year could be raised.

The total taxing authority given the SPTA adds up to around $250 million per year, which far exceeds the amount that would be needed to finance $1 or $1.5 billion monorail projects, as listed below.

Total Capital Cost Range $970,000,000 – $1,735,000,000

To finance a $1.0 billion project, the need is $73million per year (30 year term @ 6%).

To finance a $1.5 billion project, the need is $109million per year (same terms).

Any new tax to build a monorail must be approved by Seattle voters. The ETC will be preparing a measure that includes financing, from some option of the above taxes. The ETC may mix and match the above options, and could propose taxes smaller than the maximum amount for each.

A governance plan must also be approved by the voters. In addition, ESSB 6464 allows for the new transportation authority to be dissolved, if 15% of Seattle registered voters sign a petition, and it is approved by voters.

Timeline For Ballot Measure

The ETC is planning to submit a measure to the City in early August, and is preparing for a November ballot. Once the City receives the measure, the Council can then place the measure on the ballot. ESSB 6464 also allows the measure to be placed on the ballot if 1% of Seattle registered voters sign a petition; this is far smaller than the 10% needed for a regular initiative, and the 8% needed for a referendum.

State Legislation Request

Overall, ESSB 6464 greatly assists the monorail effort by providing new taxing authority for a new governmental body. Without this, the monorail effort would need to rely on the City of Seattle’s taxing authority, which is limited, and based mostly on property taxes.

However, ESSB 6464 contains a few items that are problematic. First of all, section 18 declares the legislation “null and void if a regional transportation act does not become law by December 31, 2002”.

(The state legislature passed legislation for a vote on a statewide transportation package, and a vote on a separate, regional, Puget-Sound based package)

This section of ESSB 6464 could be interpreted to mean that unless a regional package is passed by the end of 2002, the monorail legislation will no longer exist. Given that a regional transportation vote doesn’t look to be likely before the end of the year, this is a problem. Governor Locke vetoed a similar provision tying the regional transportation package approved by the legislature to passage of the statewide package set for a November vote.

Similarly, section 7 of ESSB 6464 contains a drafting error that appears to require a second vote on the monorail, even if voters pass it the next time.

For this reason, I have sent, along with Councilmembers Nicastro and Wills, a letter to the Governor requesting that he veto these sections.

Monorail Ad-Hoc Committee Future Items

The timeline of the monorail is very rapid. In the next few weeks, I will send out an edition of Urban Politics with additional information on the schedule for the City’s consideration of the monorail plan, and the timeline for meetings of the Monorail Ad-Hoc Committee.

Keep in touch…

Leave a comment