Road maintenance in unincorporated areas would decline under county plan

King County Executive Dow Constantine explains a new tiered approach to maintaining county roads at a press conference Monday at the county
King County Executive Dow Constantine explains a new tiered approach to maintaining county roads at a press conference Monday at the county's road-maintenance field office in Renton. At left is Kathy Lambert, a member of the King County Council. In the background is Paulette Norman, interim director for the county's Road Services Division. The photographs show the types of roads in each maintenance tier.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Renton Reporter

Some roads could turn to gravel in rural areas and urban areas outside cities in King County.

Snow would pile up on the residential streets of Fairwood east of Renton, Novelty Hill east of Redmond and other unincorporated urban areas near to suburban cities and to small rural cities.

Those are some of the realities of a proposal county Executive Dow Constantine unveiled Monday to maintain the county's 1,600 miles of roads, based on traffic volume, public safety and bus service, among other criteria.

The tiered-system of maintenance is necessary due to multimillion-dollar cuts in the Road Fund in recent years, caused by declines in property and gas taxes and the loss of tax base to incorporations and annexations, Constantine explained.

"It is a system that hasn't been revisited in 25 years and it no longer works," he said of the way roads are funded in the state.

Until that's fixed, residents in unincorported areas – depending on the road – will see reduced or no storm response and snow removal, road wear and tear, lower speed limits and even road closures.

"With fewer revenues, we must manage the most pressing problems that affect the most people with the resources we have. It is, in essence, triage," Constantine said during a press conference at the county's road-maintenance field office in Renton.

Under Constantine's plan, which the King County Council must still approve, the county would place top priority on such heavily used roads as the Kent-Black Diamond Road in South King County, Southeast Petrovitsky Road east of Renton and Northeast Novelty Hill Road east of Redmond.

King County has established a website (click on Map tab) where residents in unincorporated areas can find out by typing in their address where their street stands in the tiered maintenance system.  The site also has an explanation of the five tiers and photos.

The greatest impact is felt on Vashon Island and on the eastern side of the urban growth line, which runs north and south from Auburn to Kent, Renton, Bellevue, Sammamish, Redmond, Kirkland and finally Bothell. That's the county's designated rural areas and where most of its 1,600 miles of road exist.

The revenue that goes to pay for road services has declined by 18 percent during the past three years, from $128 million to $106 million. Last year, 81 positions were eliminated from the Road Services Division and this year Constantine will propose eliminating 30 more jobs.

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