The Maple Valley City Council has asked to raise the required population threshold from 25,000 to 35,000, in order to maintain state Route 169.
According to Maple Valley Mayor Sean Kelly, it is a requirement in Washington State that when a city reaches a population of 25,000, that city must maintain any and all state roads that pass through it. The bill that establishes this is called House Bill 2948.
The city would have to maintain traffic control signals, signs, traffic control devices and other expenses necessary to maintain the highway, according to the bill.
Maple Valley is verging this number now at around 24,000.
Kelly said he and other council members realized the city does not have the money to maintain these roads right now, so during their annual meeting with the legislature, the council proposed to raise this number to 35,000.
According to the bill, if a city fails to follow the obligations set, the mayor will be notified to start maintaining the state road within 30 days. If nothing is done by then, the cost will be deducted from any sums in the “motor vehicle fund” or to be credited to the city or town.
“We briefly talked to Representative Paul Graves about this last year, so he knew it was coming, he was there to support us on it (and) he’s the one who worked on it,” Kelly said. “We got down there and started talking to a couple of legislatures and they started saying ‘Oh that kind of makes sense, it’s been a long time since we’ve looked at this.’”
The amendments Maple Valley requested — to change the population number from 25,000 to 35,000 — is currently waiting to be signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.
“It passed the House (of Representatives), and it went over to the Senate and then it passed the Senate and now it’s off to the governors desk for his signature,” Kelly said. “I mean the governor isn’t going to veto that, I would think he’s not going to veto it because the Washington State Department of Transportation isn’t fighting it very much, they just asked that we phased it in.”
According to Kelly, the Washington State Department of Transportation is asking that the population limit be raised every few years, and not all at once.
For example, Kelly said, “This year would be 27,000 people and then in three years it would be 30,000 and another three years it would be 33,000 and then it would top out at 35,000.”
Although this bill is on the verge of changing soon, Kelly said cities that have already been affected by the 25,000 population threshold, will not be affected by the new amendments of the bill.
“Lets say a city right now is at 29,000 population, they told that city three or four years ago, ‘Hey, we’re not going to do your maintenance anymore, so they (WSDOT) cleared that out of their budget,” Kelly said. “They don’t have it in their budget to bring those cities back.”
This means WSDOT can budget every few years to maintain roads for cities that have not reached the gradual population threshold growth, but cannot do the same for cities that have already reached that mark a while ago, even though the threshold limit is changing.
Kelly said he thinks by the time the city of Maple Valley reaches 35,000 it will have enough money to maintain the roads.
“It’s going to be a long time before we get to that 35,000 threshold because we’re going to slow down on building in the city because we’re built out,” Kelly said. “We’ll probably get close to 30 or 31,000 in the next eight years.”
Kelly said the city of Maple Valley could not have done it without the help of their legislatures.
“This has been an outstanding partnership between the city of Maple Valley and our state legislatures, Rep. Paul Graves and Senator Mark Mullet. If it wasn’t for them, this wouldn’t have happened,” Kelly said.