[Article by Jim Mayhew, Snoqualmie Council Mayor Pro Tem. Views expressed are those of the author, not the Living Snoqualmie website. Letters and op-eds may be submitted to email@example.com]
Most of us drive the Snoqualmie Parkway every day. At least two things are conspicuous: the number of heavy trucks and the deterioration of the roadway surface. Many of us notice the increasing number of pavement cracks and potholes and wonder how soon they will worsen.
In fact, much of the Parkway will before long reach a critical stage of deterioration. If not repaved, the underlying street base will become damaged, leading to increased repair costs. But why is it deteriorating so fast?
A new study commissioned by Snoqualmie measured traffic on the Parkway and where that traffic originates and ends. Using industry-standard “equivalent single axle load” to determining the impact on roadways, it turns out that 95% of the pavement damage on the Snoqualmie Parkway results from heavy vehicles.
Of those heavy vehicle truck trips, 81% both originate and end outside of Snoqualmie. This means the vast majority of Parkway impact results from regional truck traffic not directly related to Snoqualmie (about 77%, equal to 95% times 81%).
Resurfacing the Parkway is needed over the next few years and will cost about $6.4 million, or about $1,500 per Snoqualmie home. Snoqualmie does not directly receive a single penny of revenue to help fund this repaving from the 81% of heavy truck trips that are regional. These heavy trucks do not pay vehicle tab fees or purchase fuel and thus pay fuel tax here. But they pay such fees and taxes to the state, which then uses those amounts to fund statewide roads.
Before the Parkway was built heavy trucks traveled the designated state route (SR 202) to transit Snoqualmie from east to west, with no southbound route inside the city. The State pays the cost of repaving SR 202 (Railroad Avenue) because heavy trucks and regional traffic cause most of the pavement deterioration on state routes.
When the Parkway was built its primary intended use was serving the new ridge development area, not to serve regional heavy truck traffic. It was not designated by the state for heavy truck use or as an extension of SR 18 and thus is a city street for which repaving is entirely the responsibility of city taxpayers.
Snoqualmie funds its transportation costs by dedicating the $20 annual car-tab fees (about $280k per year), gas tax receipts (about $300k per year), and administrative fees on the Waste Removal utility (about $250k per year, dedicated to streets because of the significant roadway impact of heavy garbage hauling trucks). These amounts are set aside solely for transportation.
In addition to funding city-wide street repaving, a portion has been accumulated annually towards the eventual Parkway repaving cost (over $750k has been accumulated over the last decade). This has worked for years because most roads are on Snoqualmie Ridge and were new, needing little capital maintenance.
But these roads are all at least 20 years old, and the annual cost of repaving them now exceeds $1 million annually, excluding the Parkway. To fund the difference between transportation-dedicated revenues and costs, the city now commits an increasing portion of its primary capital-funding source: real-estate excise taxes levied upon home sales. That leaves an increasingly smaller amount for all other capital needs.
Capital needs include buildings, refurbishments or improvements to parks and recreation facilities, potential new facilities such as trails and facilities at Meadowbrook farm, expansion of the community center, or community development projects such as a park trail along the Snoqualmie River. Community development projects serve residents and attract tourists to both support our local businesses and pay sales taxes that reduce pressure to raise property taxes.
Our district’s state legislators have a fantastic record of supporting Snoqualmie’s infrastructure needs. But the state is facing tough times because of the current recession. We are one city in a large legislative district and an even larger state. Most of Snoqualmie’s elected leaders are actively lobbying our state legislators for appropriate and proportionate funding (~77%) for the Snoqualmie Parkway.
However, it helps if state legislators also hear from residents. Please let our state senator and two representatives know your thoughts on state funding to help repave the parkway.