February 9th, 2019
Wondering why King County doesn’t have more snow routes? Remember, Tim Eyman initiatives have consequences
Rethinking and Reframing
February 2019 is going to be remembered up and down the I-5 corridor as the month that much of Western Washington turned into a winter wonderland resembling C.S. Lewis’ fictional land of Narnia under the rule of the White Witch, Jadis.
Two walloping snowstorms have already upended normal life in and around the state’s largest urban centers of Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett, which normally see mild winters thanks to the influence of the Pacific Ocean. And more snow is on the way.
The wintry conditions are making travel difficult. Many people have wondered on social media why the state and local governments don’t have more resources available to deal with the snow and ice and keep the roads clear. On the snow and ice page of its website, King County’s Department of Transportation has an answer to this question:
Why are there fewer snow routes?
King County crews respond to weather events that affect the bridges and roads of unincorporated areas – the network that keeps communities connected. In past years, the county was able to plow and sand critical snow routes. But the county is no longer funded to plow and sand as much as it used to.
Unfortunately, nearly three decades of annexations, declines in gas tax revenues, and the effects of voter initiatives have led to the chronic underfunding of the local bridge and road system.
Fewer resources means fewer staff to perform work during inclement weather as well as year round, resulting in significantly reduced service levels for maintaining roads and bridges in unincorporated areas including plowing and sanding services. Key transportation routes for public safety will be plowed, however, in the past we were able to open secondary routes. The county used to plow and treat 30 percent of county-managed roads, but this year there are only resources to plow 15 percent of the county’s 1,500 miles of roads.
Read the Strategic Plan for Road Services (SPRS) update and the Line of Business Plan.
For a longer discussion of this topic that offers much more context, see: Must-read article: King County struggles to fund roads and bridges.