Proposition 1 in Seattle, to spend a record-high $930 million over nine years on streets, safety, transit and pedestrian and bicycling routes, was winning handily in initial ballot counts Tuesday, throwing off criticism that the measure was too pricey.
Proposition 1 in Seattle, to spend a record-high $930 million over nine years on streets, transit, pedestrian and bicycling routes, was winning handily Tuesday — and beating the theory that voters had reached so-called tax fatigue.
About 56.5 percent of voters favored the measure. For it to lose, the “no” side would need to win 56 percent of the estimated remaining votes.
Mayor Ed Murray campaigned to the end for his plan, known as Move Seattle. Supporters walked with signs and took to phone banks, hoping to rally the base, especially the young.
“Seattle will get moving again,” Murray told revelers at the Belltown Pub. “If current trends continue, while the rest of the nation says no, Seattle says yes — we can be a livable city and an affordable city. Seattle can move forward.”
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By affordable, city leaders mean direct bus lanes, sidewalks and safe bike routes could allow people options besides the expense of driving.
The new levy would cost $279 a year for a mid-value $450,000 home, or about twice what landowners paid under the expiring Bridging the Gap levy.
Besides offering $385 million for road repaving and bridge strengthening, the city heeded requests from neighborhood, social-justice and green-transportation advocates, including 50 miles of bike lanes, and a radical safety redesign of streets and walkways near the Mount Baker light-rail station.
“The first thing I want to get done is that the Safe Routes to School get built everywhere,” Murray said in an interview. The plan calls for equipping roads near every public school to include sidewalks, low speed limits, crosswalks, enforcement cameras or speed bumps.
City work lists include $166 million for transit projects, such as upgrading seven conventional bus lines to quicker RapidRide routes, or better. Opponents argued that such promises aren’t reliable, because the levy ordinance called the lists “illustrative only.”
The property tax would supply $95 million a year, or about one-fourth of the city transportation department’s operating budget, not counting the waterfront seawall.
Mailings by the opposition Keep Seattle Affordable campaign portrayed seniors being forced by rising taxes to sell their houses.
“If this thing holds, [voters] haven’t reached tax fatigue. It’s a green light to raise taxes,” said spokesman Eugene Wasserman. The next tax request should be easier, he said, because “there won’t be another Faye Garneau,” the Aurora Avenue businesswoman who donated $325,000 against the measure.
Proposition 1 was supported by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Cascade Bicycle Club and Transportation Choices Coalition. Top funders were Amazon at $25,000 and Vulcan at $20,000, toward the total $380,000 given to the Let’s Move Seattle campaign.
Near-term priorities include Westlake Avenue North transit lanes; repaving and sidewalks at Fauntleroy Way Southwest; and $15 million toward Madison Street bus-rapid transit, where federal grants are expected. Some designs are incomplete, such as how bus lanes could be squeezed through Rainier Avenue South or the University District.
This would be Murray’s second ballot win for transportation, following last year’s passage of a $60 car-tab fee and a small sales-tax increase for more bus service.