Sammamish’s Six Year Transportation Plan’s disappearing costs

  • $22.5m in project costs disappear from 2014 TIP to 2016 TIP for same projects.
  • $20m in grants assumed in current TIP and ending fund balance in 2021 is forecast to be depleted.
  • Under-costing projects create $22.4m ending fund deficit, based on the 2014 TIP.
  • Costs were constant for several consecutive years, until 2015.
  • Big drop came from 2014 to 2015, smaller drop from 2015 to 2016.

The new 2016-2021 Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) approved on July 7 by the Sammamish City Council appears to understate the projects costs by nearly $22.5m, a side-by-side comparison with the 2014-2019 TIP shows.

The City updates and adopts a TIP every year. The big drop came from the 2014 TIP to the 2015 TIP, with a further but much smaller reduction from 2015 to 2016.

For several years before the 2015 TIP, the four projects common to several back-to-back TIPs remained constant. The 2015 TIP dropped an additional $3.6m compared with the 2014 TIP, which is $22.5m higher than the 2016 TIP approved by the City Council last month.

Sammamish Comment examined the 2014 and 2016 TIPs, finding that four projects identified in each TIP have vastly different costs. The four projects in the 2016 TIP, each with identical descriptions in the two documents, show cost reductions of 26% to 42% aggregating to $22.5m.

The 2016 TIP cost figures for the four projects largely reflect the 2015 TIP, except for a further $3.6m reduction of the widening of Issaquah-Pine Lake Road from SE 32nd (the roundabout) to Klahanie Blvd.

The 2016 TIP, even with $20m in grants included as assumed revenue, is forecast to have a nearly depleted ending fund balance in 2021 of just $107,000. If the four projects in the current TIP showed the same costs for the same projects with the same project descriptions of the 2014 TIP, the City would have a forecasted ending fund deficit of $22.4m–requiring either a tax hike, bonded debt or striking projects to eliminate the negative balance.

The four projects are:
Issaquah-Pine Lake Road from 32nd St to Klahanie Blvd

  • Widen to three lanes, bike lanes, curbs, gutters and sidewalks
  • 2014 TIP Total Project cost: $22.37m
  • 2016 TIP Total Project cost: $12.9m
  • Difference: ($9.47m) (42.3%)

Issaquah-Pine Lake Road from SE 48th to Klahanie Blvd

  • Widen to five lanes, bike lanes, curbs, gutters and sidewalks.
  • 2014 TIP Total Project cost: $23.85m
  • 2016 TIP Total Project cost: $17.62m
  • Difference: ($6.23m), (26.1%)

Sahalee Way from NE 25th Way/228th Ave. NE to North City Limits

  • Third lane, bike lanes, curb, gutter and sidewalk
  • 2014 TIP Total Project cost: $21.24m
  • 2016 TIP Total Project cost: $15.7m*
  • Difference: ($5.6m) (26.1%)

*Reduced from $16.6m in April 2015 to July 2015.

 East Lake Sammamish Parkway and SE 24th Way intersection

Intersection construction, install signal light, add turn lane, curb, gutter, sidewalk

  • 2014 TIP Total Project cost: $5.01m
  • 2016 TIP Total Project cost: $3.7m
  • Difference: ($1.3m) (26%)

These four projects aggregate to a cost reduction of $22.5m or 25% of the published $90.2m 2016 TIP Total Project costs for the identically described projects in the 2014 and 2016 TIPs.

The estimated project costs for widening Sahalee Way from NE 25th St. to the northern City Limits were shaved by 27% from 2013 to this year’s TIP, including $1m from just this past April to the July 7 adoption of the current Six Year 2016-2021 Transportation Improvement Plan, a review of documents by Sammamish Comment reveals.

In the 2014-2019 TIP, the Sahalee Way project, which calls for a third traffic lane, bike lanes and sidewalks, was estimated to cost $21.24m, a figure that remained constant in several TIPs preceding this one.

Last April, the City’s Public Works Department City Council update reduced this figure to $16.6m. Three months later, the figure adopted in the current TIP was $15.6m less for the same project–a price tax Council Member Ramiro Valderrama repeatedly questioned. He also claims that Laura Philpot, former Deputy City Manager who has since taken a position with the City of Maple Valley, acknowledged the price of the project will at least double the published figure.

Valderrama’s questions have been met with silence by Mayor Tom Vance and the City Administration, who have refused all his requests to have an open Council meeting discussion about the costs and financing of $90m worth of projects in the current TIP.

Furthermore, a reexamination of the current TIP, in which an ending fund balance projects a nearly depleted fund by 2021 includes an assumed $20m in grants. The City’s August Newsletter dismissed the depleted funds conclusion by saying grants were anticipated. But the fine print shows $20m in grants are included in the funding assumptions, and by 2021, the ending balance is $107,323.

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4 Responses to Sammamish’s Six Year Transportation Plan’s disappearing costs

  1. Not to mention the Snake Hill project which is now completely missing from the TIP. The upcoming biennium budget review/adjustments later this year (although I don’t see this on the long-term calendar…) should be interesting and might be a good time to bring up these cost/funding issues.

  2. Chris Ross says:

    The TIP is increasingly running the risk of setting false expectations. Even with reduced cost figures, the money runs out quickly. A typical Sammamish citizen doesn’t understand the TIP projects are not funded in an approved budget.

    It is critical to openly prioritize the projects, provide realistic cost figures, and identify the funding sources before people become emotionally attached to a project and later suffer disappointment.

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