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Roads report card shows King County needs to invest in roads, bridges

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure today, which reaffirms the need to invest the nation’s roads and public transportation.

A state-by-state snapshot of infrastructure also contained in the report shows the Washington continues to fall short in its efforts to preserve roads and transit infrastructure.

The ASCE issues its infrastructure report card every four years. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the current conditions and needs of six sectors that make up the nation’s infrastructure. Roads and public transportation received a “D” grade.

“This report card confirms what we’ve been saying – the public’s investment in roads, bridges and transit has fallen too far behind,” said King County Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi.

This latest report concludes that 67 percent of roads in Washington are in poor or mediocre condition. The ASCA says that’s costing Washington $1.3 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs - or about $272 per motorist.

The report noted that Washington’s gas tax has not been increased in four years.

State bridges are also in need of additional investment. According to the report, 366, or 4.7 percent, of the state’s 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient. Nearly 1,700 of those bridges are rated functionally obsolete.
King County owns 180 bridges. The county estimates more than 30 percent of its bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. In 2012, King County and its cities estimated that long-span bridges throughout the county will require $916 million in additional funding over the next six years to fully meet long-span bridge needs.

King County has been experiencing a decline in revenues for several years.  About 60 percent of the County’s road budget comes from property taxes – yet the value of property assessments coming to the county has plummeted by 44 percent over the last four years.

The annexation of urban unincorporated areas into cities has also taken a toll and has left a dramatically eroded property tax base for roads. Yet the county has not seen a proportional drop in its responsibility for repairing, maintaining, and replacing roads, bridges, and culverts, and is still responsible for nearly 1,500 miles of roadway.

The report card noted similar challenges for public transportation. Transit earned poor grades as agencies struggled to balance increasing ridership with declining funding, according to the report.

In response, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) noted that “this grade should provide a sense of urgency for our nation to focus on increased investment in public transportation. The rating is virtually unchanged from four years ago, which was the last time ASCE examined the state of America’s infrastructure.”

These conclusions reflect the challenges facing transit agencies all across the country. Metro has experienced declining revenues as ridership has increased. Metro faces a $75 million ongoing annual revenue shortfall. Without new funding, service will be cut by about 17 percent beginning in fall 2014.

Metro depends on sales tax revenue for about 60 percent of its operating funds, and has experienced a dramatic drop in revenue since the economic downturn began in 2008. Metro has cut staff positions and programs, adopted new operating efficiencies, increased fares and taken many other steps to preserve as much service as possible.

“This report provides more urgency for the need to take action now to reverse this trend so we can preserve our infrastructure investments,” said Taniguchi.

Details are online showing King County's transportation funding challenges.

Details are included in the ASCE 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure report card.

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