FILE — Washington car tab capitol

A car registration tab is shown on a vehicle parked at the Capitol, Wednesday, February 12, 2020, in Olympia, Washington. 


(The Center Square) — Three Seattle City Council members are pushing a car tab plan to pay for the city's troubled bridges after a voter-approved initiative failed in the courts.

The proposal follows a car tab initiative pushed by Independent Washington gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman which was struck down in court this fall. 

Backed by City Council members Alex Pedersen, Lisa Herbold, and Andrew Lewis, the new legislation would see the city's vehicle licensing fees fall from $80 to somewhere between $20 and $40.

Council members would prioritize the bulk of city's transportation spending for maintaining and repairing the city's most vulnerable high-traffic crossings such as the damaged West Seattle Bridge.

The legislation would raise an additional $3.6 million by next year and an additional $7.2 million in subsequent years.

It would also boost the city's bridge maintenance budget by about $4 million.

"The impending decision whether to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge highlights the importance of ongoing investment in maintenance of Seattle’s bridges," Herbold said. "Bridges are critical not only to residents and local businesses, but also to our regional economy.”

According to a city audit, Seattle is $24 million short of meeting the estimated $34 million minimum needed to keep its bridges up to engineering standards. The recommended funding amount from auditors totals $100 million.

“Underfunding our bridge infrastructure increases the risk of harm and ends up costing taxpayers more later, so let’s listen to the independent audit and increase bridge maintenance now to keep our people and economy moving,” Pedersen said.

The legislation is backed by several Puget Sound region union leaders who say that repairs to the city's bridges are long overdue.

"Seattle’s bridges are in need of extra care and attention," said Ironworkers Local 86 Political Director Heather Kurtenbach. "Using funds from Vehicle Licensing Fees will allow the city to begin reinvesting in the maintenance of our bridges.”

Billy Hetherington, political director for Laborers Local 242, supported the legislation, but acknowledged the city is still doing the bare minimum to keep city transit operational.

“We know that in this world of COVID-19, the movement of goods and services have been essential to our daily lives as we try our best to work from home and social distance from our fellow citizens," Hetherington said. "Preservation and maintenance of our roads and bridges, throughout the state, has been overlooked for decades so I am happy to see Council members making a stand to show this is a priority moving forward.”

It is unknown how much traffic Seattle's bridges will see in light of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's weekend announcement of a partial shutdown of non-essential businesses, effective this Wednesday.

The Seattle City Council will vote on a final city budget on November 23.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.