ARLINGTON — Accessible ramps, patched potholes, safer crosswalks and other road projects could be funded if voters approve a sales tax for another 10 years in Arlington.
The city is asking voters to consider reupping the 0.2% sales tax for its transportation benefit district. If they do, the first goal will be calming neighborhood traffic, city leaders said.
Ballots are due Feb. 14. A simple majority of voters would approve the sales tax, which Arlington uses today to help pay for road work.
Voters approved the sales tax for transportation work with over 64% supporting it in August 2013. At the time, just over 25.6% of the city’s registered voters returned ballots, according to county election records.
The sales tax brought in between $600,000 and $1 million each year for pavement projects across the city, Arlington Public Works director Jim Kelly said in a presentation about the ballot measure.
“If people remember what Arlington’s streets were like in 2013, you would remember streets that were rutted, streets that were cracked, streets that were filled with potholes,” Kelly said. “We’ve used this over the past 10 years and it’s made a great improvement on our pavement condition throughout the city.”
Nearly 19 miles of road across the city had pavement preservation projects since the city began collecting the sales tax. As required by law, Arlington brought 254 curb ramps to current accessibility standards at those pavement projects.
The sales tax funding also helps city staff seek grants that require some matching money, Kelly said.
Transportation benefit districts can collect revenue through additional vehicle registration fees and a sales tax. Some do both.
The city could have asked for a 0.3% sales tax after the state Legislature increased the cap last year. But Arlington asked voters to maintain the transportation sales tax and opted against adding registration fees because the money comes from anyone who spends in the city, not just people who live there and own a licensed vehicle, City Administrator Paul Ellis said.
City staff estimate the sales tax revenue to be at least $1 million annually because of population growth and anticipated higher spending in the coming decade.
Using the sales tax, which can only be spent on transportation projects, means city leaders don’t have to dip into its general fund and pull money from other departments, such as parks and police, Ellis said.
If approved, the next decade of funding from the sales tax revenue would focus on neighborhood traffic calming, Kelly said. The city would target areas with driver speeding complaints.
Some locations could get high visibility crossings, flashing stop signs, more sidewalks and trails, street narrowing through curves and medians, roundabouts and speed radar signs. The city hired a consultant to create its neighborhood traffic calming program to determine what methods to use based on different scenarios.
No one submitted an official argument against the continuation of the sales tax on the voter pamphlet.
Over 13,000 ballots went out for voters in Arlington. As of Jan. 31, 313 were returned.
Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @benwatanabe.
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