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Five Corners Roundabout: Public Works Director Replies to Funding Questions

Phil Williams: “None of the local funding is programmed to come from property tax, B&O tax, sales tax or other sources of revenue that support the City’s General Fund.”

Funding. It's one of the key concerns of those opposed to the City of Edmonds’ proposed roundabout at Five Corners.

When Edmonds Patch published a story a week ago detailing Public Works Director Phil Williams’ reasons why the city should adopt the roundabout, many reader arguments pointed to the cost of the project in a depressed economy. Funds are coming from both the federal government and from Edmonds.

Edmonds Patch asked Williams to respond to the cost issue. Here is what he says:

“The current cost estimate for the design and Right-of-Way (ROW) phase for the project is $536,000 with $463,000 of that coming in the form of a grant from the Federal Highway Administration. The balance, $73,000, will come from local funds.

“This local funding will likely come from the City’s locally generated Transportation Impact fees that we collect from any new development that has or will occur in Edmonds. None of the local funding is programmed to come from property tax, B&O (business and occupation) tax, sales tax or other sources of revenue that support the City’s General Fund (Fire, Police, Parks, etc.).

“The federal grant dollars must support this one transportation project only and cannot be spent for any other purpose. The local dollars ($73,000) cannot be spent for any other purpose than to address a transportation concurrency project. We currently have only two eligible concurrency projects that need matching funds: Five Corners and .

“We have sufficient impact fee revenues to cover the local cost for both of these projects. The primary point here is that neither the federal money or the local money can be used for another purpose. We can’t build sidewalks, fill potholes, pave streets, replace signals, buy park property, hire police officers, or anything else with these funds.

“Federal funding for transportation comes from a portion of the 18.4 cents/gallon federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. Most of that funding goes to operate and maintain the Federal Highway System, but a portion is programmed through the States and from there it is prioritized through the regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) within each state.

“Our local MPO is Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). We applied through PSRC to a specific grant program called CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation for Air Quality). It was a very competitive grant process. The transportation specialists who reviewed these applications determined the Five Corners roundabout was a great investment of federal dollars because of its potential to significantly reduce congestion (by more than 90 percent) and thereby reduce the quantity of air pollutants emitted at this intersection.

“If a decision is made to cancel this project and remove it from the City’s planning documents, the money already spent (perhaps $75,000 so far) will have to be either paid back to the FHWA (if we have already received grant reimbursement) or paid for only with local monies. The federal grant allotment ($463,000) would then be relinquished by Edmonds and sent back to PSRC to be given to some other congestion mitigation project in the PSRC region, one that, by definition was not rated as highly as Five Corners in reducing air pollution or traffic back-ups.

“If, instead, we go forward with the project, our local share of completing the Design/ROW work on Five Corners is estimated to be $73,000 as stated above. It is therefore already cheaper for the City of Edmonds to finish the project development phase at Five Corners than it would be to stop the project. In addition, if the project is cancelled it still doesn’t change the fact that the City is obligated to address the concurrency issue at Five Corners.

“If we are not moving forward with a project to solve the failed service level within a six-year period, we are not allowed to add new development that would add new traffic movements to that intersection. The only real alternative to a roundabout would be a five-legged traffic signal. That is estimated to cost approximately $1.5 million (plus $20,000 in annual maintenance expense), be less than half as effective in reducing congestion and would almost certainly need to be paid for with all local funds.

“It would also solve the concurrency problem for only about five years. If we move forward with the roundabout. we would ultimately spend only $340,000 of local money, get a much more efficient and safer intersection, a more environmentally friendly intersection, and a huge upgrade in appearance and development potential. All this while saving almost $1.2 million in local transportation funding.”

A full version of the Five Corners presentation to the Edmonds City Council can be found at www.edmondswa.gov. It includes a PowerPoint presentation complete with the video clips from Five Corners. Also available are links to two YouTube videos providing background information on modern roundabouts and some information from another city that went through this same debate. To reach Public Works Director Phil Williams, call his direct line at 425-771-0234.

A public hearing on the Five Corners roundabout and improvements to the intersection of 76th Avenue West and 212th Street Southwest will be part of the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Joe Tovar December 16, 2011 at 11:08 PM
The Five Corners Roundabout design is the smartest investment that Edmonds can make in terms of mobility, safety, environmental and fiscal health. Using stop signs and signals at intersections guarantees that every car trip that goes through the intersection will contribute either CO2 into the atmosphere from an idling engine or heavy metal particulates from brakes (copper, zinc, and chromium primarily) into storm water flows to the Sound. Not to mention that the ongoing operating cost is zero, compared with energy and maintenance costs for signals. The beauty of a roundabout is that traffic moves at all times, with virtually no idling and much less brake emissions. The chief drawback of a roundabout is that it is counter-intuitive to a lot of people - I have seen this many times across the region (LaConner, Covington, Sammamish to name a few) - people are fearful at first of the unfamiliar but once a properly designed roundabout is built, people love them. Here's a chance for Edmonds to be a smart growth leader in Southwest Snohomish County. Let's not blow it..
Donald Williams December 17, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Just think...the creation 5-corners roundabout will make Edmonds a leader among all the cities of the state. It will attract jobs, promote development, save the planet, clean the air and LINE SOMONE's POCKETS via the construction. It will only create a traffic hazard, confuse drivers, and increase our auto insurance rates via greenie-inspired, round-about circuitous logical nightmare. NO to the 5-corners roundabout...it construction will not save the planet.
ScottRAB December 18, 2011 at 06:35 PM
DW, Don't know much about modern roundabouts? Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Visit www.iihs.org for safety facts.
res03hrk December 28, 2011 at 03:06 AM
Phil - Thanks for detailing the financing plan for the roundabout. Given that the majority of the funds are coming from the federal grant and it will cost the city more money to scrap the project, it makes sense to continue to move forward.
Elisabeth Larman January 29, 2012 at 09:29 PM
It is obvious that Donald Williams has not traveled abroad or much in this country. Traffic engineers are finally aware and are implementing round abouts (Woodenville is probably the closest) in many difficult intersections such as 5 corners. it can only benefit the entire population of Edmonds travelling this route and once they use it and it becomes familiar, they will ask for many more.

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