Funding for a transportation package to cover State Route 202 improvements remains a top priority for Woodinville City Council ahead of the 2022 legislative session.
Diana Hart, intergovernmental affairs coordinator for the city, said lawmakers will address policy matters and adopt updates to the state’s budget during a 60-day session from January to March 2022. Council discussed several priorities for the city of Woodinville during a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
First and foremost, she said, the city will request funding for SR 202 capacity and safety improvements. The population within the downtown region continues to grow tremendously each year, she said. To brace for the increasing population, the city hopes to start transportation upgrades soon.
The city has already started financing the design process, Hart said, and would like the partner with the state for construction costs. Staff members are seeking $5 million to begin construction, she noted.
According to a staff report, the project would also serve as a connector for pedestrians, motorists, transit riders and bicyclists along the new 42-mile Eastrail.
“This project is featured on the Eastside Transportation Partners and Eastrail Regional Advisory Committee agendas, so it's definitely growing traction in the region,” Hart said.
She said the package probably won’t be passed this year due to a shorter session and a change in transportation chairs. However, she said, more progress will likely be made in the longer session next year.
“We're including it in our legislative priorities to remind our legislators that next time they do a budget, we're going to need [the funding],” Councilmember Rachel Best-Campbell said.
These transportation packages typically pass every five to seven years, she said, with the most recent passing in 2015. That package distributed $16 billion in funding and increased a gas tax by 12 cents, she added.
Hart said cities across Washington are continuing the route to recovery from revenue loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. City staff is also advocating for tools and resources to lessen the financial burden on cities, she said. She added that this goal would oppose legislation with unfunded mandates or increased liability.
Another priority aims to preserve Woodinville’s local control under the Growth Management Act. The act requires cities with fast-growing populations to create and abide by a comprehensive plan.
“Local control has been one of our key priorities for many years,” she said. “Preserving the Growth Management Act and local control is essential to protecting the Woodinville that council has worked on for years through intentional planning and preparation.”
Hart said the agenda supports tools that are consistent with previous approaches considered by the legislature to see “action without punishing good actors.”
Some groups hope to lobby for minimum density standards, she said, which could gain traction this session. Minimum density standards are used to develop less urbanized areas of land more efficiently. The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) expressed disinterest in legislation that would change those standards, Hart said.
To strengthen their position on local control of zoning, Best-Campbell suggested Woodinville partners with other neighboring cities that share similar goals.
“There’s a significant opportunity for legislation to pass that wouldn't win in our control of zoning,” she said. “I think united is better.”
The council can also decide whether to include legislative agendas from other municipalities within its own plan, Hart said.
She said the Sound Cities Association, an organization representing 38 cities within King County, listed similar legislative priorities related to economic recovery and transportation needs.
The SCA agenda also addresses law enforcement reform. The report includes topics such as statewide standard use of force, the creation of a database to track officers fired for misconduct as well as regular mental health screenings for officers.
The association is also lobbying for the financial needs of cities so they can continue providing local services, despite revenue loss because of the pandemic. This may require allocating federal or state COVID-19 relief funding directly to cities, the report states.
Affordable housing is on the radar as well. Some ideas include expanded rental, mortgage and utility assistance as well as incentives to encourage a diverse housing supply.
Also relating to the pandemic, SCA hopes to see the legislature vote in favor of updating the Open Public Meetings Act to allow more usage of remote meetings.
The AWC, another local advocacy group, is pushing for a transportation package as well as basic infrastructure funding and increased local authority for transportation benefit districts (TBDs).
According to the AWC report, TBDs allow the usage of sales tax funding “beyond the current time limitations.” About 79% of funding for transportation systems comes from local sources, which mean TBDs play a crucial role in infrastructure improvements, the report states.
Woodinville City Council plans to continue this discussion and approve a legislative agenda at the next meeting slated for Tuesday, Dec. 7.