Though Bertha’s job is done, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall replacement project remains a major project in SDOT’s budget for next year.

With a backlog of over 550 lane-miles in need of major maintenance, estimated to cost $970m, and a rapidly growing city, the Seattle Department of Transportation says its 2018 budget attempts to balance the mobility needs of the city while maintaining existing streets and sidewalks.

Next year’s city budget, approved November 20, increases SDOT’s budget by a little over 5%, growing to $472.4m, from $448.4m. The agency plans on adding 31 new full-time employees, approved by the city council this summer, comprised of project management, engineers and planning and design positions.

In good news for bus riders, a last-minute proposal by Councilmember Mike O’Brien and approved by the council starts to lay a path for the use of automated enforcement of transit lanes. A report by SDOT in partnership with SPD “on the potential for using automated enforcement to reduce ‘block-the-box’ incidents and transit lane violations,” is due to the council by March 2, 2018

 Though the 2018 budget has earmarked funding for the Madison Bus Rapid Transit project, uncertainty over federal funding has pushed back the project’s timeline. SDOT’s budget didn’t state exact funding for the project next year and STB is still awaiting answers from the agency.

SDOT no longer anticipates beginning construction on the project by mid-2018. A new start date wasn’t given.

Over the last four years, the city’s funding to address homelessness has grown by 60%, bringing the city’s total spending to $63m for 2018. Roughly $1.3m of that will come from SDOT’s budget, which includes the agency’s ongoing annual transfer of $1m ($800,000 of which comes from the commercial parking tax) to Seattle’s Parks Department for the remediation of tent encampments and other programs to address the crisis. The additional $300,000 is a one-time investment of gas tax revenue to purchase equipment necessary to support the expanded citywide response to the homelessness crisis.

Next year, from the 9-year $930m Move Seattle Levy, SDOT plans on spending $7m on freight mobility improvements, $16m on bike and pedestrian safety improvements with another $7.5m going specifically toward achieving Vision Zero. Another almost $5m is earmarked for neighborhood safety projects. Also from the levy, roughly $32m will be spent next year on maintenance and repair, and over $55m is reserved for congestion relief projects.

Finally, SDOT will be purchasing an additional 2,200 in-city Metro Transit service hours and 3,157 regional partnership service hours through the Transportation Benefit District. The TBD as a whole should cost a little over $51m next year.

Other 2018 budget highlights include:

  • $36.5m for Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement
  • $36.4m for the Center City Connector Streetcar
  • $17m for street paving and resurfacing, sufficient to pave approximately 31 lane-miles of roadway
  • $13.1m to implement parts of the Bicycle Master Plan ($9.4 million for protected bike lanes, $2.7 million for neighborhood greenways, and $1 million for spot improvements to existing facilities)
  • $3.4m for King Street Station tenant improvements
  • $3m one-time allocation for a pilot program to automate of one of Seattle’s bascule bridges, which if successful could lead to the consolidation of bridge operators, saving the city $1m a year
  • $2.86m for the Roosevelt Multimodal Corridor to accelerate funding needed to receive federal grants for the project
  • $1.3m for “enhanced” IT including $528,000 to create an analytic parking occupancy model
  • $1m to address landslide issues
  • $500,000 for the Market to MOHAI project
  • $500,000 for a one-time allocation to implement ORCA on the monorail
  • $300,000 to establish a data analytics team, adding a temporary staff person and a fellowship position

27 Replies to “2018 Brings a Slight Increase to SDOT’s Budget”

  1. Can we please find a better use of that $1 million transferred to Seattle Parks Dept than sweeping people experiencing homelessness?

    Yeah, I know, the viaduct replacement is a much larger source of waste (and we’re on the hook to finish it), but at least it isn’t funding sweeps.

      1. Just to note that “the tiny house movement” is a lot larger than homeless housing; that’s just one side application of it. Many people want a custom small house and put as much work into the materials and detailing as people do when renovating full-sized houses. They’re mostly in rural areas because many tiny-house owners prefer that, and others can’t deal wiith city zoning restictions. A few cities have explicitly allowed tiny houses as their own category, while most classify them as “trailers” because they’re too small for the house category, and therefore they must have wheels and there are more-or-less enforced restrictions on living in them full time. In Seattle the movement to regularize tiny houses is essentially the same thing as the movement to regularize ADUs, because most tiny houses are second houses on the lot.

        The movement to build public tiny-house villages for homeless housing is an innovative idea and I think it’s promising. I do have a concern that comes back to normal density issues. The tiny-house village in Othello is good but it doesn’t have the capacity a multistory building would have, and if we’re planning to house hundreds or thousands of homeless people this way it will take a lot of horizontal space. But it’s a good as a small start and we can figure out something more scalable later. The main thing now is to get into the mindset that we need some kind of public housing for everyone who can’t comfortably afford market-rate housing.

  2. Is automatic transit lane enforcement designed to do the best job of keeping unauthorized vehicles out of transit lanes, or it is seen as a potential money-maker?

    It still seems obvious that painting 3rd Ave red will do more to get SOVs out of the way of the bus armada than quietly mailing out lots of fines would.

    1. That doesn’t seem “obvious” to me. Widespread routine enforcement, even without heavy penalties or public shaming, is often a pretty good way to get compliance.

      1. As a phase, no objections. So long as progress is already in motion toward the amount of transit reservation, and improvement, we really need.


    2. I’ve personally never liked most red light cameras because I feel like they’re just a “gotcha.” That being said, I’d be happy with automated enforcement of transit and HOV lanes (on ramps specifically). I bet more than half the cars that go around me in the HOV lane while I’m waiting at a metered on ramp are SOV. I’ve seen the same thing with the transit lanes too. There’s a lot of people out there who will do whatever they think they can get away with. I wouldn’t see it as just a money-maker.

    3. Not at all opposed to automated traffic enforcement (red light cameras, speeding cameras, yielding at crosswalks, special lane enforcement, ect) being a “money maker” as long as the money goes towards safety improvements. The equipment is designed to identify violations, and if there are many violations, of course it will generate money-this is not something we should be shy about! Traffic enforcement should not be limited to the technology and methods available in the 1950’s.

  3. But also, check out above “driver enforcement” link. Recently declassified personal experience puts me very close to Sen. Rebecca Saldaña. See above “automated enforcement” link.

    Her concerns about drivers’ civil liberties- hate to think what the statue would look like. A private car on any arterial west of Lake Washington between Safeco Fieldd and the Space needle at rush hour is a human rights violation for everybody, starting with the driver.

    But best way to limit enforced regimentation? Make every arterial I-5 to Alaskan Way and between Safeco Field and the Space needle transit-only every single rush hour. Far fewer police, stationed at checkpoints.
    But will also force an end of transit’s own years’ long affection for things that don’t work. Which itself should get LINK and KC Metro to where they can handle newly created passenger demand.

    Remember that, like most tyrannies, the car culture came in as liberation. Over about seven decades, imitating its predecessor. Also hundred percent certain: A lot of rebels start to like Government By Punishment.


    1. These are some good points.

      Traffic stops carry much higher liability risks than either mailing out citations or just painting the darned lanes red, so people know not to drive into them.

  4. Brent, I’ve got an idea for an attractive introduction to a car-and- lane transit-free Downtown. Create a transit only corridor or network over a weekend, starting with Friday afternoon rush- announced months in advance, of course.

    Transit only IDS up Third to Westlake, reserved lane to Pine to Broadway, whole length of SLU and FHS. Also Broadway between Pine and Jackson. Scenic side-trips on 550, Westlake to Bellevue. Monorail.
    If not free transit, then pass easy to get, and use.

    Rent whole paid parking lot across 200th from Angle Lake.

    Merchant community involved to the max. Valuable experiment for them, too. Because goal is to really give the general public a taste of transit as freedom. On our side, legit claim that every new building downtown does worse. Maybe time it for Seattle’s worst construction-caused driving blockage.

    Also, I’m never kidding about emergency drills involving transit. Quake- pray God not. Terror threat? Given maintenance deferral, terrorists don’t even have to stop sinning and get out of bed, or put down their whiskey glass. Just take the credit. Worth it to watch our officials demand the credit themselves.

    I think we should seriously and very publicly go after Defense money. Swedish contractors might really want work turning everything from IDS (well, Pioneer Square) to UW, and also Beacon Hill into a bomb shelter. Real is something our whole country has needed to get for a very long time.

    What’s step one?


  5. Does anyone know if it’s possible to get more detail on the actual positions that account for these 800+ FTEs? I know they’re broken out by the general departmental responsibility they fall under, but it would be interesting to see further detail on these expenditures related to headcount and staffing.

      1. Yes. See the link to the budget, page 490.

        2016 actual, 844
        2017 adopted budget, 885.5
        2018 proposed budget, 917.5

  6. Here’s something I’m surprised nobody has brought up. We’ve got the hardest part of the Downtown transit system still to build: The surface transit system to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

    What we most have to keep in mind is that the whole project started in one city, will spend years under construction in another city, and its operating life in another yet. One really positive thing about these ongoing changes: Seattle’s new younger population seems to take good transit for granted, rather than easy driving.

    And also has the personal income to pay for it, but that’s secondary. For a badly needed set of fresh ideas, would be a good idea to make some effort to get as many of these newcomers involved in transit planning and advocacy in general. No harm in issuing some invitations.


  7. here is a more specific wording for Dublin’s last question: with the CCC streetcar destroying 1st Avenue for a few years, what will be the interim pathway for the SR-99 bus routes (e.g., C Line and routes 21X, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, and 125) between the opening of the deep bore tunnel and when the new Alaskan Way is available (though fish do not ride transit)?

  8. What was the overall growth of the budget and did SDOT’s share keep pace, trail, or outgain the overall growth?

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