A new traffic concurrency plan for Sammamish appears unlikely to meet the Sammamish City Council target date to lift the building moratorium in July, despite six months of staff and consultant work and expenditures of about $375,000. (Read more.)
Concurrency is a state law requirement to “prohibit development approval if the development causes the level of service on a locally owned transportation facility to decline below the standards adopted”, unless “transportation improvements or strategies to accommodate the impacts of development are made concurrent with the development “. The law allows development to proceed if “a financial commitment is in place to complete the improvements or strategies within six years.” (see RCW 36.70A.070, and a clean indented version)
Accordingly, cities are required to set a level of service standard for their roads, measure traffic and forecast future impact of development on traffic.
Sammamish officials have a serious transparency and credibility problem.
The side-by-side comparison of the 2014 and 2016 Six Year Transportation Improvement Plans (TIPs) shows what appears to be creative “book keeping” to present a financial picture that is rosy when it’s really not. Sammamish Comment also reviewed prior TIPs to compare projects and projected costs.
Sammamish Comment spent this week dissecting the TIPs for the Readers. The issues are these:
When Sammamish officials in the summer of 2014 lopped around $19m off its 2015 Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan from four long-standing road projects, they had already pledged to improve and widen Issaquah-Fall City Road along the entire length of the east side of the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area if voters there agreed to annex to Sammamish.
Klahanie PAA voters rejected a plan the previous January to annex to Issaquah. Sammamish, which campaigned against the Issaquah vote, promised to take on the road project if a subsequent vote to annex to Sammamish was held and approved. King County at one time placed a price tag of $32m on the project. Sammamish officials studied the plan and concluded King County had double-counted some of the work in a two-phase plan and estimated the cost was closer to $23m.
For several consecutive TIPs, costs for four key projects within Sammamish remained constant. Facing the Klahanie project, the 2015 TIP cut$19m from these projects. Another $3.6m was further reduced from the 2015 TIP for the 2016 TIP, approved last month.
The analysis that revealed City officials shifted $22.5m from road projects to fund the $23m Issaquah-Fall City road widening to fulfill a commitment for the Klahanie area annexation appears to go back on a pledge to Sammamish residents that they wouldn’t be impacted by the annexation.
It also appears to be an effort to mask early statements by City officials that Sammamish would have to issue $23m in bond debt to pay for the Issaquah-Fall City/Klahanie road widening project.
The Sammamish City Council may discuss the controversial Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), but not until after the November election, Sammamish Comment has learned.
City Manager Ben Yacizi wrote Council Member Nancy Whitten on Aug. 5 that a budget review meeting in November, which will “authorize the funding of various TIP projects” “might be a good meeting to further discuss this topic.”
Whitten had written Yacizi supporting Council Member Ramiro Valderrama’s concern that the August City Newsletter and its articles about the TIP were political in nature.
Sammamish Comment detailed the politicalization of the Newsletter in an August 12 post. The Newsletter had a front page article defending the funding of the TIP, along with a Mayor’s Message doing the same thing.
“I join in Councilmember Valderrama’s request that we have further council discussion about these road projects…and how we might pay for them and the potential bonding before such an article goes into our newsletter,” Whitten wrote, noting that “inconsistency with prior statements made about bonding are very convenient timewise during an election year.”
The Sammamish transportation fund will be nearly depleted by 2020, a forecast shown the City Council July 7 indicates.
In a staff presentation outlining the six year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) planning document, a requirement under state law, focus was on the projected budget through 2019. During this period, Staff emphasized the prospect of obtaining grants, revenue from the Klahanie annexation and other fees that will support a variety of road projects.
But little discussion occurred on the declining fund balance projections beginning in 2017 and the dramatic drop offs thereafter to virtually no balance in 2020 or 2021.