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When originally created in 2013, the Transportation Benefit Program was raising approximately $700,000 per year. With the recent growth in Arlington, it is expected that renewal will now raise a little over $1,000,000 per year.
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Improvements can include traffic congestion relief, traffic slowing/calming projects, sidewalk connections, crossings, and repairs, street and road maintenance, and multi-use trails. Revenue also can be used as matching funds to access larger grants.
State law allows voters to approve a sales tax increase up to 0.3% (three-tenths of one percent) for a period of 10 years; the tax may be extended for a period not exceeding ten years with an affirmative vote of the voters. In 2013, Arlington voters approved a sales tax increase of 0.2% (two-tenths of one percent), equivalent to two cents on a $10 purchase, and City Council is now asking that the Transportation Benefit Program sales tax be renewed, which will extend the tax for another ten years.
State law requires that all revenue generated by the TBP sales tax be maintained in a separate fund and used exclusively for the road preservation, maintenance, and improvements as outlined in the adopted plan.
In 2013, Arlington’s citizens realized that there was insufficient revenue from gas tax, sales tax, and other traditional “street revenue” sources to keep up with maintenance and improvements needed for the community’s transportation infrastructure. The citizens voted to approve the TBP and the City began performing the necessary transportation maintenance and improvements. For the past ten years, the City has performed transportation preservation and maintenance projects needed to maintain a quality transportation system.
However, our job is not complete. The City needs the revenue generated by the TBP to not only continue transportation preservation and maintenance projects, but to complete neighborhood traffic calming projects, transportation safety improvements, and capacity improvements. The TBP sales tax is the one tool the State has given cities to generate revenue for these needed projects. Based on state regulations, a TBP has to be renewed every ten years by the voters, the Arlington vote is in February 2023.
Since enacting the program in 2013, the sales tax charge has been shared by both residents and non-residents that use Arlington streets and purchase Arlington goods and services; the renewal will not make any changes to this arrangement. For example, every $100 spent in the City of Arlington on taxable items, the sales tax would include 20 cents ($0.20) for TBP funding. Sales tax is not collected on food.
Using sales tax as a funding mechanism ensures that City residents are not the only ones that would pay this tax, Those that visit Arlington, be it for business or pleasure, would also be contributing to the fund to maintain and repair our roads.
When the Transportation Benefit Program was passed by the voters in 2013, Arlington streets were in horrible condition. The primary focus of the TBP was to repair and preserve the investment the community made into the City’s transportation system, and we made a great start on achieving that goal.
Since 2013, the TBP has generated enough revenue to allow the City to restore 18.9 miles of City roads; some of this restoration was resurfacing and some really bad roads were fully reconstructed. But that’s not all. The City coordinated water, sewer and storm infrastructure improvements to be completed when we were performing street preservation work, this way the newly restored street will not be ripped up in 5-10 years to replace a water main or sewer main. In addition, the City also replaced every non-compliant curb ramp that bordered a restored road – that’s a total of 254 curb ramps.
Arlington residents responded to a recent poll stating that safe streets is their highest concern. If the TBP is renewed, this will be a primary focus for the City. In July, the City Council adopted a six-year Transportation Improvement Plan with $350,000 obligated each year to neighborhood traffic calming improvements that will be funded by the renewed Transportation Benefit Program. In addition to neighborhood traffic calming projects, the renewed will:
Only residents that live within the Arlington City limits may vote on the renewal. City Council is asking residents to vote in February 2023. Voters must approve any sales tax funding for a TBP by a simple majority.
With sales tax, both residents and visitors who purchase goods and services in Arlington pay to help fund street improvements.
The City Council dismissed the option of imposing vehicle license fees up to $50 without voter approval as an alternative to the sales tax. Tab fees are generally considered less equitable than a sales tax, given that only city residents would pay the extra car tab fees, and the sales tax is paid by everyone that uses Arlington’s roads, residents and visitors alike. This is more equitable, as this is the larger community that uses the roads and contributes to the need for more roads and the amount of maintenance and operation costs.
There are 11 cities in Snohomish County with TBDs: Arlington, Edmonds, Everett, Granite Falls, Lynnwood, Marysville, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Snohomish, and Stanwood.
Lake Stevens is going to the voters requesting to for a TBD.
The City’s sales tax rate is less than or the same as the following cities.
City of Arlington sales tax rate Sept 2022: .093 (includes the current TBP tax)
City of Marysville .094
City of Stanwood .093
City of Snohomish .093
Unincorporated Snohomish County .093
City of Arlington City Administrator, Paul Ellis