Road repair tax headed to the ballot

This November, Oak Harbor residents will likely get the chance to vote on a sales tax increase to fix and maintain city streets.

Last year, the city council decided to start a transportation benefit district, which is a quasi-municipal corporation with taxing authority. City officials are hoping for a stable source of funding for road maintenance projects.

Many other communities — including Anacortes, Mount Vernon and Bellingham — already have transportation benefit districts established.

Council members, who are the governing body for the district, have five different options for raising money but chose a two-tenth of 1 percent sales tax. It will raise an estimated $900,000 a year.

At a workshop Wednesday, Senior Planner Dennis Lefevre presented council members with a proposed ballot measure and long list of projects. One question to be resolved is whether the project list should be included in the resolution placing the question on the ballot.

City Engineer James Bridges explained that the worst streets in the city will be treated in the first five years. The list for the first year alone has about 50 projects all over the city.

Bridges said the city streets have really thin asphalt, which cracks, allowing water underneath and causing it to fail.

Depending on the state of the street, workers will either fill cracks, chip seal, apply a 1.5-inch overlay or reconstruct the road, which means grinding off all the asphalt and rebuilding it, according to Bridges.

He said chip seal extends the life of roads and gives them more traction, but drivers may be disappointed.

“They think they have this new road in front of them, but it’s going to run a little rough,” he said.

After the initial five-year phase of repair, the city would start a program in which roads get chip sealed in a 10-to-13-year cycle.

The issue will be brought back to the council at the June 4 meeting.

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