Bike lanes on NE 65th St
Roosevelt Bus Lanes at 65th St (SDOT)

After a bumpy start, the Move Seattle levy is slowly starting to spend significant funds, SDOT staff told the Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

The meeting began with advocates from the MASS coalition giving testimony on the need for prioritizing buses in a time of climate crisis.  Committee Chair Mike O’Brien agreed, noting that if the city is going to ask people to ride transit, it ought to be reliable and convenient.

SDOT staff presented the quarterly oversight report, which includes a status update on dozens of levy-funded projects.  Spending has been lagging for several years now, due to a combination of factors, including an uncertain federal funding environment, difficulty hiring construction firms in this white-hot labor market, Mayor Durkan’s 2018 “reset,” and a surprisingly cold and snowy winter.  Indeed, money is being shoveled out the door even slower than SDOT had forecasted just six months ago:

Still, despite the snow and the Seattle Squeeze, this was the busiest Q1 to date in terms of project spending:

Staff were generally optimistic, pointing out that the Lander St. Overpass project is now $20M under its $130M budget.  On the other hand, contracting issues are causing challenges with the Northgate pedestrian bridge project (though the project as a whole hasn’t yet been delayed).

We’ll get more updates on the multimodal corridors, including RapidRide improvements, later this year.  Most corridor work will be in concert with Metro (e.g. RapidRidge G & H), though on Rainier Avenue multimodal updates will arrive in 2022, before RapidRide bows in 2024.

Finally, later this year SDOT also plans to identify a potential new location for the Mt. Baker transit center as part of the Accessible Mt. Baker project, which will be a welcome improvement.

16 Replies to “Levy Spending is Slowly Ramping Up”

  1. The bus stop in the picture is on Roosevelt and I’m pretty sure was completed before Move Seattle passed.

    1. ha! thanks. That’s what I get for quickly scanning SDOT’s Flickr page lat at night. I should have known – the bus stops on 65th aren’t that nice. :)

    2. Move Seattle passed in November 2015; the Roosevelt Way NE bus islands were installed in early 2016; the funding may have been secured before the levy.

  2. Would like to see move Seattle spend graph broken out by mode.

    What road projects have been cancelled so far?

  3. The Lander St. overpass shows where SDOT’s priority really is. If it benefits cars and freight, the $130 million magically materializes. If it benefits buses, bikes, or pedestrians, SDOT complains that it can’t find the $2-3 million because it has nothing left after spending all its money on the car projects.

    1. The Lander Overpass is an example of good project development. It was appropriately budgeted, accurately priced, funded partly from other sources, and will eliminate a rail-traffic conflict that creates both a safer street and a more reliable rail line.

      Would a grade separation of the MLK median segment be called a freight and auto project? This is essentially the same principle here.

      Besides, Move Seattle was pitched as a multi-modal measure. That was part of why it passed!

      1. The Lander overpass has sidewalks on just one side. It’s really a stretch to say it benefits anyone other than cars and freight. It is no more a multimodal project than Interstate 5 is.

        Comparing it to grade-separating Link’s RV segment (which benefits cars, transit riders, and pedestrians) is ridiculous.

      2. Sounder and Amtrak trains can go faster if there are no grade crossings. That’s a transit rider benefit.

      3. The benefit will only be realized when you eliminate all of the grade crossings in that area. Holgate, Horton, and Spokane streets would all need the same $100+ million treatment before any speed benefits could be realized.

      4. Isn’t that like saying that eliminating all grade crossings on MLK is required before it’s a transit rider benefit?

      5. Unless the median is exclusion-fenced bridging all the crossing arterials over Link would NOT speed it up. It would make it more reliable because it wouldn’t ever get stepped on by a light or, even worse, rammed by a poorly-driven car.

        But as long as people can cross the right-of-way, I can’t see SDOT allowing faster speeds.

  4. With the Lander St overpass project budget lowered from $123M to about $100M, I’d love to see how the funding mix has since changed. In other words, which entities will see their contribution to the project reduced? This was the funding mix back in 2017 (in descending order):

    FASTLANE Program $45M
    Move Seattle Levy $20M
    Port of Seattle $15M
    City of Seattle (2016 appropriation) $13M
    PSRC STP Funding Grant $9.5M
    FMSIB $8M
    Connecting Washington Program $7M
    Natl Hwy Freight Program $3M
    BNSF $2.5M

    1. As long as it doesn’t result in a funding match requirement being exceeded I don’t see a scenario where FASTLANE, Federal Freight, STP, and FMSIB would be credited.

      More likely the Port of Seattle and/or BNSF will have a case for asking for a share of the cost under-runs, to then turn around and give it back to the City for E. Marginal Way. That project has clear clear clear clear benefits for cyclists (and pedestrians) and of course freight.

      1. The Move Seattle Levy Oversight committee will have a say in where the returned funds go, and they won’t decide to invest in E Marginal Way when there’s another potential grant for that project.

  5. I think the narrative above is a bit confusing on its face. The 2019 spend plan derived in March for $218 million is for ALL funds, not just the Move Seattle Levy Fund.

    The 2019 adopted budget called for $148M in expenditures under the levy account. Those outlays would be paid for by expected 2019 levy revenue of about $99M and a fund drawdown of $49M (reducing the fund balance from $65M to $16M and change).

    The revised 2019 budget upped the outlays from the Move Seattle Levy Fund to about $156M (of the total $218M from all funds for these projects).

    As far as the funding for the Lander St overpass project is concerned, the linked report shows the following detail on page 43:

    ADOPTED BUDGET: $5.8M (Move Seattle Levy Fund), $35.1M (All Funds)
    REVISED BUDGET: $8.6M, $42.4M
    2019 SPEND PLAN: $8.6M, $18.3M

    This is rather curious since SDOT actually revised their 2019 budget upwards by some $7+ million for this line item, including $2.8M from the levy funding, though they are now lauding the overall lower estimate for the project as a whole. The significantly lower 2019 spend plan figure (for all funds) may indeed reflect the lower project cost the city now anticipates, but it’s hard to say since these numbers reflect an annual budget period and not the project lifetime funding in total.

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