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The city of Bellevue is considering an $18 million project that would convert vehicle lanes in various local arterials into bike lanes, a move city officials believe would reduce biker fatalities and improve non-vehicular commuting without negatively affecting traffic conditions.

However, opponents are arguing that the project would achieve none of those objectives.

Under the proposed “Bike Bellevue,” the city would create a 15.11 mile-long bicycle network in downtown, Bel-Red, and Wilburton neighborhoods, in most cases by removing at least one vehicle lane on the road from 11 corridors.

According to city documents, the project would “greatly expand the number of employment opportunities, schools, transit stations and stops that people can comfortably get to by bike within the project area.” The city estimates the project, when completed, would facilitate between 825,000 to 4 million bike trips a year, while reducing vehicle miles traveled by between 1.2 to 10.8 million miles annually.

Critics say the city is embellishing the perceived benefits. According to the city’s own estimates, the project would add just 210 bike trips within those corridors and 375 bike trips citywide. Only 13 new bike trips would be for commuting.

Testifying at a recent Transportation Commission meeting, Kemper Development Transportation Director Mariya Frost said that “the plan does more to increase traffic congestion and worsen conditions at intersections than it does to actually increase bike ridership, much less do anything for people living below the poverty line who will not bike to work. Worse still, some of the plan designs create serious safety concerns for all road users.”

According to city documents, the removal of these vehicle lanes won’t negatively impact traffic. In fact, the city claims that even with population and employment growth, traffic levels in those corridors will actually go down. The city bases its claim on traffic volume data gathered from those areas, arguing that six of the 11 bike corridors have either seen no increased traffic or decreased traffic.

However, Frost told the commission the data doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the situation because it’s based on combined average traffic levels in both directions.

“In other words, peak demand in one direction on a busy afternoon is offset by moderate traffic in the opposite direction,” she said, “and this then represents whether the road is fully utilized. Instead, staff should compare directional demand to directional capacity during peak hours of the day, which is when we need to accommodate vehicular traffic the most.”

The city is accepting public comments and feedback on the proposed designs through Nov. 15.

The Census Bureau reports that in Bellevue, the top quintile of households has soared past the half-million mark for the first time. They now bring in an astounding $562,670 per year per household. That’s up 28% — about $125,000 more per year — since 2019.

Meanwhile the poorest fifth of Bellevue households makes $32,500, up 1% since before the pandemic, or just $350 more per year.

wrote last year that these widening gaps in Bellevue are bound to upend that city’s placid politics, as they did Seattle’s. The pressure the top exerts on the bottom, by being so rich, is relentless. It’s most visible with housing and restaurant prices, and also shows up in the volatile issue of who pays for city services and amenities that are at a premium due to rapid growth.

Sure enough, there’s now a mini tax revolt going on in Bellevue — against potentially raising a sales tax or other fees to pay for road work in the city.

“If approved, this will be the fourth tax the council has approved in 10 months,” Craig Spiezle, of the group Neighbors for a Livable Bellevue, protested at a council meeting this past week.

Spiezle and a dozen others went on to detail how the proposed taxes are regressive, meaning they would hit Bellevue’s working poor the hardest. People are facing rising costs for groceries and gas, Spiezle said — “There’s a growing number of Bellevue households who are one paycheck away from being unhoused. … The council has made positive steps to support affordable housing. But you need to focus on affordable living.”

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(The Center Square) – The Bellevue City Council is receiving pushback from residents over a transportation benefit district that, if funded as proposed, would generate an additional $10 million in sales tax revenue. While proponents within city hall say it’s necessary to cover some transportation projects, including maintenance work, some critics have called it an unnecessary and permanent “slush fund” and one of many recent tax increases without voter approval.

Under state law, local governments can form TBDs to raise revenue for specific transportations projects such as roads and sidewalks. Typically, they are funded through vehicle license fees or the local sales tax.

The Bellevue City Council first studied the concept of a TBD back June, then voted to create it in July. At its Monday meeting, the council voted to assume control of the TBD, though it has yet to vote on creating the sales tax to fund it. The assumption means that the city council can conduct TBD business during a city council meeting, rather than hold a separate meeting.

According to city documents, the TBD would be used to fund the maintenance budget for streets and signals maintenance, which saw a revenue reduction of $1.7 million in the 2021-2022 budget and $1.8 million in the next budget.

However, opponents note that most of the revenue under a proposed 0.1% sales tax increase would not be tied to any specific project.

The current local sales tax rate is 3.6%. The council might also impose a $20 vehicle license fee

Although the city estimates the 0.1% sales tax increase would cost the average Bellevue household $20 to $30 per year, Craig Spiezle with Neighbors for a Livable Bellevue told the city council at its Monday meeting that it would be the fourth new tax the council has enacted in 10 months without voter approval.

“While individually these taxes may be small, collectively they have a significant impact on a growing number of households who are one paycheck away from being unhoused,” he said. “Continually increasing taxes cannot and should not be the answer.”

While both city staff and some councilmembers stressed that the meeting’s vote was on assuming control over the TBD and not on a new tax as originally scheduled, Spiezle said “we need to be honest. The only reason to approve a TBD is to impose a tax. This is the elephant in the room.”

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