UPDATE, Oct. 24, 1 p.m.: The City of Kenmore has decided not to pursue a toll on the two bridges over the Sammamish River at 68th Avenue NE just north of Kirkland.
The city’s Transportation Benefit District Board on Monday agreed to continue to gather information on the bridges’ condition, but not research tolling. Kenmore officials had discussed a possible toll on the bridges due to increased traffic by drivers seeking to avoid tolls on the State Route 520 bridge.
Here is a City of Kenmore press release on the decision:
Kenmore, Wash. – At a meeting on Monday, October 22, the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Board discussed tolling and other funding options for the TBD. The Board agreed to gather more information on the condition of the Sammamish River Bridge and not continue researching tolling at this time.
Condition of the Sammamish River Bridges
68th Avenue NE runs in a north/south direction through the City of Kenmore. The road crosses the Sammamish River on two bridges. Just south of the bridges, 68th Ave NE becomes Juanita Drive NE. This major arterial serves not only Kenmore residents and businesses; it also serves as a regional route for traffic around the north end of Lake Washington.
Prior to the October 22 meeting, City staff met with the King County Bridge Inspection group to discuss their recent inspection of the Sammamish River Bridges on 68th Ave NE. There are two separate structures for north and south bound traffic. The “younger” East Bridge’s condition is acceptable. The West Bridge, constructed in 1938, continues to age and show more signs of wear. Currently, the City is working with the County to perform the following for the West Bridge: a new load rating study, an update of the bridge monitoring plan, and additional analysis of the pilings and the superstructure (bridge deck and girders) in order to create a short-term maintenance plan. The County is anticipated to provide a findings report during the first quarter of 2013. Once the information becomes available, staff will provide an update on the findings to the Board at a public meeting.
Funding the Sammamish River Bridge Repairs
While it is not yet known when the West Sammamish River Bridge will need to be replaced, the City has begun researching options for funding. Tolling is not the only funding option for the Sammamish River Bridge. For example, federal grants, such as the “BRAC” grant, have traditionally funded the bulk of the cost of regional bridge replacements. There are no guarantees that the City will be successful in getting grants for the bridge, but we will aggressively pursue any grants or subsidized loans we can find to help us with costs. If the Board considered tolling as a way to pay for the bridge, a free pass or low toll would likely be considered for Kenmore residents and it would need to go to Kenmore voters for approval.
In November, the Board will hold a special meeting to discuss adopting a resolution to implement a $20 vehicle fee. If passed, the resolution would not take effect for six months. Revenue generated from the vehicle fee will help fund pavement preservation (overlays, repairs, etc.) throughout the City.
About the TBD
On April 16, 2012 Kenmore City Council adopted Ordinance No. 12-0339 which established a Transportation Benefit District (TBD), effective April 26, 2012. The TBD geographic limits are also the Kenmore City limits. Per KMC 12.90.040, the funds generated by the TBD may be used for any purpose allowed by law, including to operate the District and to make transportation improvements that are consistent with state, regional and local transportation plans and necessitated by existing or reasonably foreseeable congestion levels. Also per KMC 12.90.040, the transportation improvements funded by the TBD shall be made in an effort to preserve and maintain transportation infrastructure, improve safety, or implement projects identified in the City’s Transportation Improvement Program.
To learn more about the Transportation Benefit District visit, www.kenmorewa.gov.
Motorists headed north of Lake Washington along Juanita Drive and 68th Avenue NE to avoid tolls on the State Route 520 Bridge could see a different toll in the future.
KIRO-TV reports that the Kenmore transportation officials planned to discuss establishing a toll for the Sammamish River bridges, because the city's mayor says local roads are seeing more use as drivers avoid the 520 Bridge.
According to the article, 24,000 motorists every day cross the aging bridges on 68th Avenue, which is what Juanita Drive become north of Kirkland. Kenmore has 21,000 residents.
The State Route 520 Bridge began electronic tolling last December. The base toll rate is $3.59 at peak hours.
According to the KIRO article, a toll in Kenmore could be $1 per crossing. It's not a certainty, but Kenmore residents would vote on a toll next year, if the city decides that a toll is the way to go.
What do you think? Does this eliminate one detour that you were taking around 520 Bridge?