An introduction to Friday Harbor’s Transportation Benefit District

  • Sun Jul 18th, 2021 9:54am
  • News

With the new roundabout inserted, the days of waiting for minutes on end at the intersection of Mullis and Spring Street are over.

This roundabout was funded in part by the Transportation Benefit District. With the vote of the council, Friday Harbor Administrator Duncan Wilson carries out the decisions on what improvements are to be made.

These improvements consist of curbs, gutters, sidewalks, storm drains, streetlights, and crosswalks.

The funding produced by the Transportation Benefit District comes from an imposed 10-year 0.2% sales tax on all transactions that was approved by voters in 2014.

“Through a vote of the people they overwhelmingly approved it,” said Wilson. This money is solely to be used for projects that will benefit transportation through the town.

Without the funding from the TBD, not as many transportation improvement projects would be viable throughout the town.

“We only make about $350,000 a year, that is not enough to make a million-dollar street,” Wilson said. “So, often, we use our TBD money as our matching money.”

What Wilson means by this is, each year the council puts in a request for money and after that they will be awarded a contract, he said. Within that contract, they will have to match the money by usually about 10 or 15% before starting a project. Once TBD money is combined with capital money, it allows for a project to be completed, said Wilson.

All improvements are part of a six-year plan, which Wilson describes as “A rolling six years” because it is constantly revised and looking towards the next six years.

“Every year, it is a little bit different than the year before,” Wilson said.

Along with the new roundabout, the TBD has also helped to fund work on Web Street, Mullis Street, Tucker Avenue, Marguerite, Price, Park, and Spring street, along with repairing other portions of roads throughout town.

Wilson enjoys getting creative with transportation projects. He got the idea for the roundabout when he was out on vacation, he said. What was different about the roundabout he witnessed was that it was flat as opposed to being raised.

“I came back and I said, ‘I want one just like that and my engineer and I worked together with designing them because we knew we had a problem with space and we wouldn’t want to have to go out and try to condemn property to make it as big. “They’re smaller, they’re a lot homier,” he said laughing.

In order to build a full-on roundabout, you need a lot of space, he said. With not much space available between Spring and Mullis Street, this roundabout allows for large trucks to drive right over it.

“It really smoothed out the traffic in that area,” he said.

Future projects will include the first street overlay from Spring to Court Street, Warbass traffic calming improvements, and the Market Street overlay.

The full list of future projects can be found in the six-year Transportation Improvement Plan online.