Representative projects to be funded by the transportation levy. Map: City of Bellevue

Bellevue has a progressive transportation levy on the ballot next month that will step up investments in neighborhood safety and connections. The levy augments baseline spending in Bellevue’s Capital Improvement Plan, accelerating local projects that would otherwise wait many years for funding.

Bellevue is growing quickly, and the growth has been accompanied by increasing public demands for better non-motorized connectivity as well as local congestion relief. The upshot is an $800 million deficit between the 20-year list of capital projects and projected revenue, much of that in transportation. A particular need for funding to accelerate safety, connectivity, and neighborhood congestion projects was identified.

The proposed tax rate is 15 cents $1,000 assessed value. The median Bellevue homeowner would pay $96 annually (on an assessed value of $640,000). The measure yields $6.7 million, or an estimated $140 million over 20 years. A second, similarly sized, levy for fire facilities is also on the ballot.

While not a very large program (about one-third the size of the Move Seattle measure in per capita/year terms), the mix of projects is impressive. There are no large highway expansions. Major planned efforts to extend the arterial street system in the BelRed area to coincide with the completion of East Link (where the City will seek TIFIA funding) are not included.

This measure, rather, supplements baseline capital funding to address the backlog of small locally-oriented projects that would otherwise be built over decades. 223 projects are identified as candidates, and the city’s interactive map shows projects spanning every neighborhood in the city.

Some story boards from the Bellevue Transportation Department illustrate the range of what would be funded. Priorities include:

  • New sidewalks and trails will be accelerated. Bellevue’s CIP has a 30-year backlog of identified high-priority projects, many of which will be supported through the levy.
  • Neighborhood safety. Candidate projects include 84 locations for traffic calming, 12 school safety projects, and 55 pedestrian crossings.
  • Bicycle facilities with 52 identified projects to provide 57 miles of new or upgraded bike facilities citywide. Funding Bellevue’s Bicycle Rapid Implementation Program would expand the city’s network of bike routes from 107 to 128 miles, but more importantly would improve the quality of these routes, reducing unmarked shared facilities (wide lanes and shoulders) from 65 to 35 miles and adding 23 miles of separated bike lanes.
  • Enhanced technology, including LED streetlights, video monitoring and analysis of accidents and near misses, parking and driver information systems.
  • Neighborhood congestion, largely signals and intersection improvements. Notably, capacity is not being increased via added lanes or new roadway.
  • Sidewalk and trail maintenance. This mostly comprises repairs and maintenance to defective sidewalks and trails due to root heave or aging. The city would also sweep trails and streets more frequently.

The measure is City of Bellevue Proposition No. 2, “Levy for Neighborhood Safety, Connectivity, and Congestion”, and deserves your support.

26 Replies to “Bellevue’s Transportation Levy”

  1. Let’s just hope that Bellevue’s politics have turned around sufficiently to pass this measure. Bellevue’s no longer the staunch conservative it used to be but it’s far from Capitol Hill politically.

    1. I don’t know if it was ever staunch conservative. When it was conservative, conservatives weren’t as staunch.

    2. Publicly funded sidewalk repair is already progressive compared to some places. Here, the sidewalk is considered the property owners problem.

    3. From the description here, these are the sorts of projects that affluent inner suburbs tend to love. I suspect the only arguments against are going to be about value for money, or perhaps priorities [as in, if the government wasting money doing x, then they could do this without having to raise taxes.] My impression is that Bellevue runs a pretty tight ship, so I don’t know that there are that many x_s to object to.

    4. There hasn’t been much opposition. Though also not much coverage in general. The Council unanimously endorsed sending this to the voters. Council Member Jennifer Robertson, who leans conservative, wrote the pro- statement. Kevin Wallace was also instrumental in developing the measure.

      Hopefully, all this means that there will be a lot of mainstream support in Bellevue.

      The No side focuses on how the projects are illustrative, so you have the usual objections that the pols will do something else with the money later, or shift other money around. The familiar ‘blank check’ argument. But how else would one construct such a measure? Given Bellevue’s fiscally conservative track record, I don’t suppose that argument will stick.

    5. Kirkland loves its CKC trail and its waterfront promenade, and striped bike lanes on its arterials years ago. Issaquah loves its forest trails. Bellevue loves its inner forests and downtown park, and a lot of people appreciate the NE 6thh Street promenade as much as it exists. Even though they drive to all work and errands they like to recreate in non-driving spaces, and appreciate being able to walk between buildings downtown. So trails and walkways and bike lanes are popular there as they are in Silicon Valley. An increasing number of people are biking around town, and more would if the bike lanes were better, and they’ll vote for a little money to improve the bike/ped infrastructure.

      I was at a Future of Flight event last night and Mukilteo (Mukilteo!) has a bike lane intersection on the Mukilteo Speedway with raised curbs around the bike lane and crosswalk as if it belonged on Dexter Avenue. (Or as my dad would say, “Just like they do uptown”, or “like the swells doo”, or “like beautiful downtown Dexter”.) (However, while part of the speedway had a bike lane westbound, on part of it eastbound the shoulder turned into practically nothing and looked very unsafe, unless there was a separate bike path I couldn’t see in the dark.)

      1. They don’t all drive to work. I have coworkers who take the B line into work, and one who lives in Old Bellevue who can walk to work. There is a reasonable amount of residential construction going on in central Bellevue, all of which is very walkable.

        Price of parking is key. If parking in Bellevue was as expensive as parking in seattle, there would be much more demand for bus service within Bellevue and nearby cities like Kirkland.

  2. Prediction: the people of Bellevue will love this project list. The “drive throughs”, as they do when opining about Seattle, will hate it.

      1. Those that insist on treating local streets like freeways when using them as an alternative to I-405.

  3. I’ll add that at least a few of the suburbs are doing this. Bothell also has a transportation levy on the ballot – the one here has no new street construction. The money is only for sidewalk/crosswalk construction and street repair. Plus the levy is even higher – $0.50/$1k assessed value. Hopefully it’ll pass – so far the only real organized campaign is for its passage.

  4. Do we have any idea what percentage of the 30-year backlog this will be taking a bite out of?

  5. Seeing the obvious shortfalls of Lets Move Seattle, could we get an all-sidewalk measure on the ballot in Seattle to fix the large swaths of pedestrian network for which there is no hope of ever completing

    1. As an able person, I think the crazy cracked, heaved, and dissappearing sidewalks are interesting and fun. That being said, I can understand why people want proper sidewalk, especially elderly, people in wheel chairs, or vision impaired.

  6. My husband worked for six years for the Bellevue Parks Department and he learned that Bellevue-ites love their parks and are willing to pay for them. This measure is only a little bit parks but he predicts this will pass.

  7. Wish they’d also consider funding more local bus service like Seattle has been. If there’s one place that stands a chance at limiting car dependency on the East Side, its Downtown Bellevue.

    1. Bellevue has an excellent transit master plan but so far hasn’t put any money into it. I’m not sure if they’re just waiting for Metro to do it or if they’ll get around to it after all the Spring District and trails and stuff.

      1. Or with the big East Link restructure, when canceling the 550 will give ST & Metro all sorts of extra service hours to play with?

      2. The Bellevue transit master plan hasn’t translated to capital dollars yet. But it did inform their input to the Metro LRP and ST3 plans, and a lot of that manifested in the final plans. Always helpful when a city has thought through its own needs.

      3. Is seattle the only city that pays for additional bus service? Bellevue city council might believe that County taxes for Metro and regional taxes for ST is sufficient funding for transit. Adding ST3 taxes is a big investment in transit for East King all by itself; I don’t think any east King city is interested is additional transit funding above and beyond ST3 at this time.

        Like dan, I’m glad that Bellevue city government spend the time and money to develop a master plan, and is using it to inform requests. But I think east King cities view the job of executing on said plan the job of the transit agencies, not the cities.

      4. The last two countywide Metro increases failed. Seattle had so much demand Metro set up a program for cities to buy additional bus service. Seattle’s Prop 1 has a fund for matching dollars to partner with suburban cities on city-suburban routes. I’ve heard contradictory things on whether any other city has taken up that offer. But if any other city is supplementing Metro’s hours, it’s very few of them. I don’t know what the Bellevue City Council is thinking, but it has made no move toward a Prop 1 type investment.

  8. I walk around downtown Bellevue frequently enough. It’s not a great city to walk in with the huge blocks and wide streets.

    Two things I wish they would change to improve walkability:

    1) Sharply restrict the length of time a construction project can close a sidewalk and how many sidewalks on the same “square” can be closed. It’s fine if it’s a week or two and I have to detour. But to allow a project to close a sidewalk for 6 months seems ridiculous. It seems like the east side of Bellevue Way south of the museum, and the north side of NE 4th Street, east of Bellevue Way have been closed forever. And now the west side of 106th Ave NE is also closed. It’s not like detouring across streets is easy in Bellevue. NYC requires them to build a protected pedestrian passage. If Bellevue wants to encourage pedestrians, they need to start requiring developers to maintain pedestrian passage.

    2) Make the traffic signals more pedestrian friendly. Even if that penalizes auto traffic. Right now you can push the button for a signal, and the signal may have the pedestrian corridor clear where it could give you a green and still allows another 60 seconds of auto traffic but it makes you wait an entire signal cycle. The signals should be reprogrammed to give greater priority to giving pedestrians a green fairly quickly, whether that means interrupting a cycle, extending the current phase, going out of sequence.

    1. When they built the new city hall it was impossible to walk from the old city hall to the new one without crossing the street at every intersection. I pointed this out to council and asked if anyone ever had walked between the buildings. I was told by one that one of her staff had.

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