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Starting in July, a new $20 vehicle license fee invests more in safe streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and strong bridges

Biking on a Stay Healthy Street. Photo Credit: Jeanne Clark.

Earlier this spring, a spend plan developed in collaboration with modal, labor, and equity stakeholders for the new $20 vehicle license fee (VLF) was shared with City Council. The plan prioritized safety, equity, and maintaining Seattle’s streets, sidewalks and bridges. In May, City Council approved its implementation for the second half of 2021. 

Aligning with our goal to build, operate, and maintain an accessible transportation system that reliably connects people, places, and goods, 75% of the VLF revenue is being dedicated to investments and projects in neighborhoods facing higher risk of displacement and lower access to opportunities.   

If you go to pay your car tab on or after July 1, 2021, you’ll see a $40 VLF. Half of this is this new $20 VLF.  

In case you missed it, your overall car tab is $40 less than it was last year! A $60 VLF expired in 2020.  

It’s important to know how your money is getting used. Below are the projects we have planned for 2021! 

Safe Streets 

  • Begin to plan and design three  Vision Zero  safety corridor projects along Rainier Ave S, Martin Luther King Jr Way S, and Airport Way S  
  • Design 20-30 ADA curb ramps for 2022 construction  
  • Implement a permanent Stay Healthy Street in Greenwood  

Safe Sidewalks 

  • Repair sidewalks in Westwood/Highland Park, Pioneer Square, and Georgetown/South Beacon Hill neighborhoods, as well as along sidewalks and intersections that could include Martin Luther King Jr Way S, Airport Way S, and Rainier Ave S.  
  • Remark 500 crosswalks across the city  

Active Transportation Maintenance 

Strong Bridges and Structures 

The Spokane St Swing Bridge viewed from above. Photo Credit: Tim Durkan.
The Spokane St Swing Bridge viewed from above. Photo Credit: Tim Durkan. 
  • Advance replacement plan and design of movable bridge components  
    • Among other maintenance projects, this is likely to begin work on an overhaul of the hydraulic lift system at the Spokane St Swing Bridge (low bridge)  

More on the hydraulic lift system: Two large hydraulic cylinders, located on the east and west side of this bridge, do the heavy lifting that allows the bridge to swing open for ships and boats in the Duwamish River. Think of the cylinder as a pivot point where each span rotates out of the way of boat traffic.   

Planning Ahead 

Planning ahead. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 
  • Begin developing a citywide multimodal plan with community engagement to refresh the City’s transportation vision and integrate the City’s current modal plans (pedestriantransitbicycle, and freight
  • Staff will engage communities in the plan development to address transportation equity, safety, and climate change values 

Responding to a City Council amendment, we’re also working on a list of projects that could be funded by $100 million in bonding. 

City Council passed Ordinance 126327, making $3.6 million available in 2021 to use on the $20 VLF spend plan (which is why we are implementing it this year!). We invite you to listen or watch the 10-minute conversation. It begins approximately 1 hour and 5 minutes into the Council meeting. City Council also adopted Amendment 2 to the $20 VLF spend plan.  This amendment asks us to provide to Council a list of transportation projects that could be funded by $100 million of bond financing in 2022 .  

What are bonds? Bonds are a way that cities can borrow money now for public projects like roads, bridges, and schools, and repay over time with interest, much like a car or home loan.  

Bonds are an important part of how we invest in our infrastructure, though not traditionally used for the items outlined in the $20 VLF spend plan approved for the remainder of 2021.  

The list of bondable projects is due to City Council by September 30, 2021.