When you hear that SDOT has completed work that is funded in part, or completely, by the Bridging the Gap (BTG) transportation initiative, are you one of those people who asks who is holding SDOT accountable for how my tax dollars are used?
As part of the BTG voter-approved levy, an Oversight Committee was created to serve as an advisory body on issues related to the BTG Program and provide accountability on the use of the funds through monitoring revenues and expenditures, and program and project implementation. The hard working citizen’s committee is composed of 15 Seattle residents from communities across the city and bring with them expert knowledge about bicycling, transit, pedestrian and freight needs.
The committee’s quarterly meetings, in January, April, June and October, are held in different locations throughout the city and are open to the public to provide maximum accessibility. At every meeting the committee scrutinizes the BTG program ensuring that the program is on budget and on track for meeting the goals of the nine-year plan. The committee reviews projects to ensure that they serve all parts of our city: neighborhoods, commuters, bicyclists, pedestrians, and the freight community. The members focus on how BTG is being integrated into other planning and programming at SDOT. For example, to guarantee integration with the BTG program, the committee looked into and commented on programs such as Complete Streets, the Bicycle Master Plan, and the Pedestrian Master Plan, and implementation of the Neighborhood Street Fund large project program.
While overall revenue in SDOT has shrunk, funding specific to BTG has remained steady with property tax and commercial tax dollars coming in at expected rates. Per the authorizing ordinance, levy dollars are allocated to provide no less than 67 percent for maintenance work; no less than 18 percent for pedestrian and bike safety; and not more than 15 percent for enhanced Transit. BTG dollars have funded the Pedestrian Master Plan, the Bike Master Plan, and Phase I of Transit Plan. Striving to make the most of every transit dollar, BTG partnered with Metro matching $1 for every $2 of theirs to create 43,600 hours of additional bus service and enhance six transit corridors. The commercial parking tax is primarily used to fund three major projects – Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project, Mercer East Corridor and renovations as King Street Station.
In addition, over the past four years a few of the highlights from a tremendous accomplishments list include implementing 164 school zones with signs and beacons; planting 3,239 trees; paving over 128 roadway lane-miles; maintaining over 4,080 signals; build 69.35 blocks of sidewalks; rehabilitating three bridges and completely replacing the NE 45th Street Bridge.
This past year, the committee also redesigned the selection of projects for the Neighborhood Street Fund Large Project program. In the end the committee recommended to the Mayor and Council that 11 projects be funded in the 2011 budget. The current project cycle is selection in 2010; design in 2011; and construction in 2012. As part of the program $1.5 million is set aside annually for neighborhood projects.
For more information about the Oversight Committee, please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/btg_oversight.htm .
The accomplishments over the past four years are impressive; the complete list of BTG work completed so far is available on the website: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/BridgingtheGap.htm .