I had previously posted a letter to the editor about prioritizing between sidewalks and bike lanes and received many great comments (thank you all who commented). For those interested, the original letter and comments can be found here: Letter to the editor: Budget priorities – more sidewalks or bike lanes? – My Edmonds News
The letter was worded very intentionally and received some expected responses. The intent was to make a point about priorities, not necessarily about where the money comes from to fund the proposed projects. In one way or another, the money comes from our taxes. Either federal, state or local. I don’t see any philanthropic “revenue” in our budget. Having said this, let me elaborate on the funding sources a bit more to clarify some potential misconceptions.
The current proposed 2022 budget has $901,780 earmarked for new sidewalks plus $350,000 for sidewalk maintenance and $1,562,390 for bike lanes. Of the bike lane budget, $191,850 are city funds and the remainder is from a grant provided by Sound Transit. Exploring how the grant money was obtained is interesting.
The Sound Transit grant program itself explicitly states that the program would have funded safe sidewalks. However, we chose (prioritized) to submit an application for bike lanes instead of for sidewalks. An excerpt from the grant program states:
“The $100 million Systems Access Fund (SAF) included in the 2016 voter-approved Sound Transit 3 (ST3) measure is allocated equally among Sound Transit’s five subareas for projects such as safe sidewalks, protected bike lanes, shared use paths, improved bus-rail integration, and pick-up and drop-off areas.”
The full grant program specifics can be found at: Connecting to stations | System Access Fund | Sound Transit.
I think it’s disingenuous for the city to suggest that we didn’t have an alternative and now feel obligated to spend the grant money on the bike lane project. That may be true now that the grant has been approved, but we had a choice back then. The city chose to prioritize bike lanes over sidewalks.
So, what can, or should we be doing going forward? This is not a sidewalk/bike lane issue per se. It’s a discussion about a vision for the city and our priorities. Priorities are all about choices. Sometimes difficult choices. In budgeting, difficult choices have to be made. Our current city council seems to be having difficulty making these choices. That’s where we can help.
I would like to see more and better engagement with our city administration and city council on a whole host of decisions facing us. You pick the topic. You tell them how you’d prioritize the budget between wants and needs. Use this sidewalk/bike lane topic as a starting point if you like because it’s low-hanging fruit. Unless they hear from us, they’ll continue to do what they want, not what we need.
Time is running out as the council is ramrodding the budget process through in an expedited manner this year. A proposed budget that has expenditures exceeding revenues. So difficult decisions have to be made to balance this budget. Comment here and I’ll forward them to the council, or better yet, reach out directly to our City Council (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let them know your thoughts and ideas. They’re anxious to hear from us!