Bellingham, Wash., voters will decide whether to continue transportation tax
July 24, 2020
The fall election in one Washington state locale will include a question to renew a transportation tax that raises about $5 million each year.
Since 2011, the city of Bellingham has collected a 0.2% sales tax for street repaving; building sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes; and to help fund local bus service with the Whatcom Transportation Authority. Street projects receive about $1.4 million per year.
Approved by 58% of voters in 2010, Proposition 1 authorized collection of the transportation tax in the city along Interstate 5 near the Canadian border. The tax, however, is set to expire in March 2021.
In an effort to maintain the city transportation tax, the Bellingham City Council has voted unanimously to ask voters this fall whether to renew collection of the sales tax for another decade.
Passage of Proposition 1 created a transportation benefit district, now called the Bellingham Transportation Fund, dedicating a percentage of sales tax solely to transportation improvement projects.
The transportation sales tax was estimated to generate $3.8 million per year. The tax ended up raising about $5 million annually.
If renewed by voters, street paving and maintenance would receive 40%. Projects that include sidewalks, crossings, and bike lanes would get 40%. Other projects that include bus service would receive 20%
Specific projects are outlined in the six-year transportation improvement program.
Supporters say the tax revenue provides a stable cash flow. They add that the local revenue source has taken on increased necessity due to the economic difficulties from the coronavirus.