Woodland considers tax to pay for road projects

Council vote is first step in gaining state and federal funding

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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The Woodland City Council will decide Monday night whether to send a citywide sales tax for transportation projects to voters this November.

The proposal before the council is for a two-tenths of a percent sales tax within a yet to be specified commercially zoned area. Money from this proposed transportation benefit district would primarily go toward a planning and environmental review on the $60 million Scott Avenue Crossing reconnect project.

From there, the project would need significant state and federal support to come to fruition.

Woodland officials are hopeful a voter-approved tax would show state and federal officials city residents are willing to pay for their roads, and thus lead to state and federal dollars for the project. The same such process worked to nearby Ridgefield’s advantage when it sought to improve the Pioneer Street overpass.

Woodland’s council meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday inside council chambers, 100 Davidson Ave.

“Basically, what the legislators are looking at is whether local citizens are willing to assist on solutions to some of their transportation issues,” Woodland Mayor Chuck Blum said. He added the council would need to determine the district’s size.

Blum has previously said that a transportation benefit district would help “our industrial areas as well as our circulation problems,” particularly near Exit 21 off Interstate 5. He cited a city study that said the project could ease the city’s traffic burden by up to 38 percent.

Woodland officials have held public meetings in recent weeks to speak with residents about the proposed transportation benefit district. Residents have voiced traffic concerns in these meetings, council member Benjamin Fredricks said, but it remains to be seen if they would approve a tax.

Fredricks predicted the council would have the necessary votes to send the two-tenths sales tax to the voters. That vote is vital, if residents are serious about improvements to their transportation, infrastructure and roads, as they claim, he said.

“I believe this is a solution,” Fredricks said. “Whether they want to fund that solution is up to them.”

Then the emphasis moves to lobbying for dollars from Olympia and beyond.

“We do not have a piggy bank of money to help with that,” Fredricks said. “We’ll need state and federal help.”

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517, http://www.twitter.com/col_smallcities or ray.legendre@columbian.com.