Car-tab fee for bridge maintenance? Councilmembers’ proposal

One of the issues brought up in the process of deciding whether to repair or replace the damaged West Seattle Bridge is the cost of future maintenance. Tonight, three councilmembers including West Seattle/South Park’s Lisa Herbold are proposing a car-tab fee to help pay for bridge maintenance citywide, replacing part of a fee that’s about to expire. From the announcement we just received:

With support from labor and business communities, Councilmembers Alex Pedersen, Lisa Herbold, and Andrew J. Lewis today proposed legislation to use Vehicle Licensing Fees to boost maintenance of multimodal bridges throughout Seattle. Vehicle Licensing Fees, which were previously set at $80, would move from $20 to $40 under the new legislation, as authorized by RCW 36.73.065 and RCW 82.80.140. The legislation would raise an additional $3.6 million in 2021 and an additional $7.2 million in subsequent years. The Councilmembers propose to direct the additional funding to bridges with high-frequency public transit.

The Seattle City Auditor recently published a report on the city’s bridges indicating high unmet needs for bridge maintenance. The engineering standard for bridge maintenance in Seattle ranges from $34 million to $102 million per year, and yet the current level for is only $10 million approximately. The city needs to add $24 million at the very least to meet the lowest estimate of maintenance needs. The City Council Budget Chair’s initial balance package restores or funds several transportation projects while adding $4 million to bridge maintenance. By tapping the adjusted vehicle license fees, this legislation would invest another $3.6 million to double the Council’s addition to $7.6 million. This represents an incremental increase to begin meeting a clear need.

So to recap – the current city car-tab fee is at $80 (going toward transit) and scheduled to drop to $20, but this would drop it to $40 instead. The proposed legislation (read it here) is on the council’s “introduction and referral” calendar for the coming week; it likely won’t be voted on until after the council wraps up its budget work just before Thanksgiving.

49 Replies to "Car-tab fee for bridge maintenance? Councilmembers' proposal"

  • Amy November 13, 2020 (10:04 pm)

    Sure, just make a decision already.

  • FixTheBridge November 13, 2020 (10:14 pm)

    Can West Seattle residents please retain a law firm to begin a class action lawsuit to get our bridge repaired?? Trapping people and then delaying and delaying addressing the declared emergency is the height of negligence. We must consider taking this matter to court. The CBA failure to include “bridge-out” costs to us as residents makes it a ridiculously flawed document. Residents have suffered economic damages and therefore have standing. Durkan has already declared the WSB a civic emergency.  Class action lawsuit to repair the bridge and compensate each resident for any SDOT negligence please. 

    • Alki November 14, 2020 (10:30 am)


  • Chemist November 13, 2020 (10:18 pm)

    So, the STBD car tab fee’s voter-approved $60 would expire at the end of 2020.  We’d then be down at the base $20 STBD car tab fee again until this additional $20 would be added in July 2021/6 months after it passes council.  There is no proposed expiration date on this measure (makes some sense since it’s permanent maintenance need but it’s also shifting a permanent need out of the general fund and into a special fee).

  • confused November 14, 2020 (4:49 am)

    So I’m clear on this … the entire city of Seattle would pay the car tab fee for a bridge that not everyone would drive on? Seems to me they should make those who live in WS pay for it, based on address.  

    • WSB November 14, 2020 (2:00 pm)

      No, as written and linked above, this is a proposal to generate funding for maintenance of multiple bridges around the city, theoretically including West Seattle but by no means limited too.

    • John Galt November 14, 2020 (6:05 pm)

      I completely agree, if we extend the principle to every other tax and fee. I don’t see why I should pay for schools – seems to me they should make those who have children pay for it. While we’re at it, seems to me those whose house is on fire should pay for firefighters, those who cheer for every stupid foreign war should pay for the military, and those who choose to get cancer should pay for it as well. Libertarian utopia!

    • Little One November 16, 2020 (7:48 am)

      I don’t think a tax based on address makes sense. IF there were to be a usage fee/tax, tolling would be much fairer.

  • Junction Lady November 14, 2020 (6:13 am)

    Repair the bridge!

  • payattention November 14, 2020 (6:55 am)

    ZERO trust in leaders! I’d be happy to pay if the money was used for it’s intended use. The reality is  the money WON’T go to maintenance.  City council will syphon off for “something else” 

  • Wall Street Carpetbagger November 14, 2020 (7:40 am)

    Back East… to get into NYC using the Lincoln, Holland Tunnels, or GW Bridge; the cost is $16.00 one way. People coming in or leaving West Seattle should pay-to-play! TOLLS are part of life in the East. These West Coasters who love single-family homes, space, and privacy should PAY FOR IT!  To live in West Seattle, the cost is peanuts… homes are barely over $800K, and taxes are low. The state, county, and city must tap into a metropolitan population that is taxed very little through property values/sales. Hell, get creative on the tax policy revenue side like Chicago/Cook county did!  Tax Netflix and double the rate of car tabs like Chicago, or pass congestion taxes like some Eastern states. Maybe pass a WA state income tax that can create a tax stream for infrastructure as well as education. As any East Coaster knows- the schools and roads are equally as terrible in WA. Anyone who complains about any low tax options, clearly cannot afford to live here and should move to a more affordable area. Like NJ is to Manhattan, Tacoma is to Seattle. Tolls and taxes are the only way to keep the semi-ridiculous traditional WA way of life and living. 

    • heartless November 14, 2020 (8:05 am)

      Well, yes.  That would make sense.

      My take is that this area has a much stronger, erm, libertarian, I guess, streak than other places, making it much harder to get at least the taxes implemented (although, at least to me, tolls should be just fine per a libertarian philosophy).

    • CMT November 14, 2020 (8:08 am)

      You don’t seem to like it very much here. Good luck to you.  

    • John November 14, 2020 (8:29 am)

      Those states consistently make the 10 Worst Places To Retire list because of the excessive taxes.

      People are leaving in droves.

      New Jersey taxes you when you move out.

      Not something I think we want to aspire to out here.

      • Wall Street Carpetbagger November 15, 2020 (11:25 am)

        “People are leaving in droves?” What is your source? Merely staying here say is it a feasible response.

    • Boop November 14, 2020 (10:11 am)

      And you moved here…. because?

      • Wall Street Carpetbagger November 15, 2020 (11:22 am)

        Thank you for your response. I moved here because of a Chicago company, Boeing. They (Boeing) send their people here partly because this area of the country lacks the management, and strategic defense expertise when it comes to building munitions or vehicles that drop munitions. I am rightly qualified to criticize the sociological tenets of a people’s way of live having lived in 7 states and serving in the US armed forces in over 72 countries. 

        • CMT November 15, 2020 (12:15 pm)

          Lol.  Now you are just trying to get a rise out people by referring to Boeing as a Chicago company on a Seattle blog.  You seem pretty bitter about being here and I hope you are able to move back to somewhere for which you have less disdain some time in the near future.   I think you mean “social tenets” rather than “sociological tenets” though.  In any event, having lived in 7 states and serving in the US armed forces in over  72 countries does not in and of itself give your criticisms – which are at base really just an (angry) opinion – any particular validity.    

    • Smittytheclown November 14, 2020 (10:23 am)

      Not sure Chicago and Manhattan are the role models we are looking for.

      • Wall Street Carpetbagger November 15, 2020 (11:35 am)

        Chicago and Manhattan are role models because they are regional and global economic engines. Both cities receive much acknowledgement in FT than your Seattle. To gather more about Chicago’s global economic impact, pick-up a Crain’s Business Journal. Delving into the quant and qual information… you will realize that Chicago is a true global city. Where’s Seattle’s HyperLoop?

    • The King November 14, 2020 (12:14 pm)

      Yes, let’s tax these peons and make them regret being alive every minute of their miserable existence. If they don’t like it, the beatings will continue until morale improves. 

    • Disgusted November 14, 2020 (5:46 pm)

      We see first hand how quickly pandemics get out of control in congested areas.  And Covid-19 will not be the last such pandemic.  Those who advocate for high density living ignore the science and data we can all see first hand.  I sense some indignation on your part that people have homes with yards.

      • KM November 14, 2020 (9:50 pm)

        Lmao, no. Density is not the problem. Just ask North Dakota.

    • 1994 November 15, 2020 (2:04 pm)

      If you a wall street carpetbagger find our WA lifestyle to be a  “semi-ridiculous traditional WA way of life and living”, what are you doing here? FYI, many people who have been raised in WA barely earn a living wage. And yes, these types of tax increases are hurtful to the lower wage earners.  Who do you expect to pick you up in your Uber, operate your grocery store, keep the lights on and the water flowing, pick up your trash, grow and harvest your food?  Not everyone is a wall street carpetbagger! or a high paid tech worker.

  • Smittytheclown November 14, 2020 (7:47 am)

    Done.  Hell, keep it at $80 if you repair the damn thing. 

  • Pete November 14, 2020 (7:50 am)

    And what are the impacts to our transit needs once they allow that money to go away? I have to wonder what world these electeds live in when they are faced with decisions like this. Our city council has for years underfunded our basic infrastructure needs for our roads and bridges. Their own city auditors said they needed 24M annually just to stay even with maintenance needs of our bridges. This does nothing to address the backlog.  I really wish our city council would reposition their heads to their shoulders and then proceed to live in the real world that they were elected to serve. 

    • WMH November 14, 2020 (9:01 am)

      Amen brother, amen.

    • Anne November 14, 2020 (10:02 am)

      Never going to happen-something happens to people once they are elected-they step out of the real world-into a world where they have power to control where & how our money is spent. The issues they touted & ran on to get elected-well after a bit it’s-“never mind I now know better”  they almost start speaking a language that is hard to understand & forget about accountability-it  is not a word they comprehend any longer. 

  • L November 14, 2020 (9:04 am)

    For many years the Council has squandered our money, spending hundreds of millions on streetcars that nobody uses, while neglecting our important infrastructure (bridges) that everyone uses.   Now they’re proposing to make up for lost time with a new tax — shocker!    Absolutely despicable leadership!!

  • Bridgegate November 14, 2020 (9:41 am)

    If they would have done the maintenance that was required we likely would not be in this mess, pier 18 has had the stuck bearing since 2014 and adding a lane to one side over was not in the design. The bridge has a maintenance budget and it was used elsewhere. Now the taxpayers have to pay more for the negligence of our officials. How many other bridges are not getting the maintenance they have budgets for and why not and were are thise budgets getting diverted too.. just askin

  • Mj November 14, 2020 (9:47 am)

    Another tax for a basic item, what will happen is that little money already dedicated to maintenance will get supplanted for something else.   

    The Mayor is proposing increasing spending on homeless another $51 million on top of the $100 million already being spent, where did this money come from?  Why are residents in Bellevue and other areas of the County not contributing their fair share to this challenge?  If the City was not footing an unfair portion of the bill for a County challenge the City would have more money available for basic maintenance. 

    And quite frankly I believe the $51 million the Mayor found should be used to repair the bridge that affects over 100,000 residents and businesses!

    • FixTheBridge November 16, 2020 (5:28 am)

      Durkan has declared 3 civic emergencies in Seattle, homelessness, Covid 19 and wait for it…the West Seattle Bridge. I see action on 2 of the 3 emergencies. Mayor Durkan and Herbold and Sam Z are inflicting harm on our community by ignoring the crisis and failing to repair the bridge. West Seattle MUST retain a law firm and move towards filing a lawsuit against SDOT and The City of Seattle for failing to maintain our bridge and then failing to repair it in a timely manner. We are all owed money for the extra expenses each person has incurred due to any negligence. It is time to take legal action people. We are owed back pay and one repaired bridge. Frankly,  it would be healthy for Seattle to get sued by West Seattle. Our City needs to be punished now for all the delays in repair and failures to maintain the bridge. Then maybe the next time a city bridge needs to be maintained they will do it before the bridge is shut down? It is pathetic that a city like Seattle is so back water it can’t even make a DECISION after this much time. Time to come together and sue Seattle…we will get our bridge back and they will learn a much needed lesson. I hope West Seattle Bridge Now group can lead the charge here. 

  • JL November 14, 2020 (9:48 am)

    The Seattle Residents should be able to see a SDOT detailed quarterly report on when and how any our  taxes and fees are spent in Seattle for our transportation projects, repairs and any other hidden jobs.   Should be available on their SDOT Website.   Right now my preference is to repair the bridge with limited weight going over it.  I personally will never travel over it again until it is replaced.  With replacement it needs to be one bridge that has Sound Transit Light Rail included so we do not have to have another bridge – find a way to build a tunnel with lower cost.  If built could have room for vehicles, light rail, bike lanes, walking path and those electrical wires that more than likely need to be replaced at some point.  No more driving in fog, rain, ice, snow at a 6 degree climb and decline.  Also don’t trust your council members on all issues, do they really represent you and what you want or want they want.

  • Chris November 14, 2020 (9:54 am)

    The money is there, the city government isn’t – and hasn’t – been spending it in the right places.   The city expects to spend $150M on the homeless community in 2020 per their own news release.  How about 10 percent of that for maintaining infrastructure?   Is that too much to ask?  The mayor and the council continue to throw our taxes away (they call it revenue).  If the service were this poor at a business, I doubt few of us would return.  For roads, what about the 4th Ave S bridge over the railyard that hasn’t been repaired in years? The last SDOT excuse was that the railroad wouldn’t allow access for SDOT to fix that bridge.  We need politicians who want to efficiently run a city, we haven’t had those people in city government in years.

    • KM November 14, 2020 (2:34 pm)

      Ah yes, comparing governments and private businesses. Very reasonable.

  • bradley November 14, 2020 (12:39 pm)

    It’s interesting how the Council and Progressives can dial down a Police Budget to the last dime.  But Seattle City Light?  Dept. Of Trans.?  Planning and Development?  City and Council Admin staff?  No way.

  • Millie November 14, 2020 (2:25 pm)

    Just one question of the City of Seattle leaders –  Where did the funding, identified for bridge repair/maintenance, in both Move Seattle and Bridging the Gap go?  How was this money used since the City’s bridges are not kept up (per recent audit).    West Seattle residents have been paying for bridge maintenance/repair via property taxes for these levies.

  • Sandy November 14, 2020 (2:39 pm)

    Might want to try another way to get money from citizens. At the rate people renew tabs or hold on to out of state plates, the city is going to lose out on 10-20%. Don’t believe me, take a look around.  Every day I see people parking and driving public streets with tabs that are expired 1-3 years. Apparently nothing happens to them or they would be renewing vs paying $200+ ticket (s). People also move here and keep their old plates even though the law is you must get WA plates within 15 or 30 days. This is not just a covid era thing either.  I’m sure the old register your vehicle in another county at a friend or relatives house still happens too which results in even less revenue for our county. I’m no fan of the DOL though.

    • chemist November 14, 2020 (4:43 pm)

      I have a second car that I opted to not renew tabs on until I knew how the 976 vote turned out.  Easy enough to just use my other car.  Unfortunately, the 976 car tab adjustment was stuck in court-limbo for nearly a year and apparently when you’ve not renewed for 1 year, your registration for new tabs can’t be done online anymore and you have to go to visit a registrar (and West Seattle’s has been closed too).  I’m not sure if the state wants me to drive the expired tab car to burien or georgetown for renewal or not, but I’m waiting until after the STBD $60 fee expires at the end of the year to sort that car out.

      • Question Authority November 14, 2020 (6:32 pm)

        You’ve never had to bring a vehicle with you to get tabs so what’s your concern?  

        • Chemist November 14, 2020 (8:02 pm)

          I didn’t have to bring my vehicle in when I first brought it into WA but they’re requiring I go to an physical location during CORONA because I have had it lapsed for a while.  Why?

          My post was saying that the state hasn’t done any covid changes for tabs yet.

  • DeeJay November 14, 2020 (3:59 pm)

    Councilmembers, please go back to the drawing board.  We citizens should not have to pay the burden for the City’s Negligence who created this bridge issue.

  • zark00 November 14, 2020 (4:42 pm)

    The West Seattle Bridge should NEVER be tolled.  And West Seattle home owners should consider appealing our property tax based on ‘Undesirable features such as an access problem’. every home owner in WSea appealed property tax, the council would be forced to do something.It would also be a huge news story.  This was in a story on komo from May:West Seattle homeowners want to know how the indefinite closure of the West Seattle Bridge is impacting their property values. One real estate broker said he’s already seeing some changes.“A lot of first-time homebuyers especially have shifted their focus to other places,” said Kevin Broveleit, managing broker with West Seattle Realty.

  • Dan November 14, 2020 (8:51 pm)

    Let’s see if I understand this. There was no money for bridge maintenance but they didn’t tell us? They assumed the bridges would just fall down and no one would notice? So we have multiple bridges in Seattle in dire straits. Now they say, well it turns out, maybe we need money for the bridges to be taken care of. We never had any money before and didn’t ask for it or even think we needed to keep the bridges repaired but now we see different?  Could we have less capable elected officials?

  • Dan November 14, 2020 (10:18 pm)

    Ok, thanks for pointing those out. Money was there. Judgement call on where it was to be spent? Or if inspections were done in a reasonable time frame? Or if someone was actually in charge?  Not clear. 

  • wseaturtle November 15, 2020 (1:04 am)

    We don’t need no stinkin’ bridge.  Improve on the lower one. Figure out an emergency system.  Turn the high bridge into a giant flower pot, an off leash dog park,  or an animal crossing for opossums and Racoons. Or ask China to build it for us, all they’ll ask in return is to put a submarine base at pier 70.

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