Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pierce County Considers New Traffic Impact Fees

Submitted by Paul Ellis

With costs continually rising for transportation improvements, there are really only two ways to provide additional revenue needed to meet community needs: raising taxes (usually across the board) or increasing fees (often seen as the "pay to play" approach). A new fee proposal, stalled for several years as politicians, builders, Realtors, environmentalists and others debated how much developers should pay, is now under review by the Pierce County Council.

Impact fees are charges on new development to pay for capital improvements (such as parks, schools, roads, etc.) that are needed due to the new development. Traffic impact fees are a proposed new type of impact fees that might be collected to improve the transportation system to accommodate higher travel demand added by new development.

That's the gist of the proposal, anyway--but there are two competing views on this issue. The key point of contention is whether the share of growth-related transportation costs for the next two decades allotted to developers is fair and reasonable. Pierce County Executive (and RAMP co-chair) John Ladenburg estimates $488 million over that period to estimates it will need to spend $488 million to widen roads, build new ones and rebuild intersections to enable its 1,528-mile network of roads to keep pace with growth. The executive's plan, embraced by the four Republicans who hold the council majority, would raise 39% of that total from developers via the proposed new impact fees. Democratic Councilmembers Calvin Goings and Tim Farrell have proposed charging developers nearly 70%, and Goings says he believes the current tally underestimates growth in Pierce County's burgeoning unincorporated areas.

The final decision on the fees will be made on October 3rd in the Pierce County Council meeting held that evening at Woodland Elementary School in Puyallup.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

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