A $20 vehicle registration price increase for Richland residents is one vote away from reality.
The Transportation Benefit District board agreed Tuesday evening to move the ordinance instituting the fee to a second reading.
City council members fill the role of board members.
If the ordinance is approved, the city would begin collecting the fee in 2018 on about 40,000 vehicles registered in the city.
The roughly $850,000 per year generated from the increase will be split between two initiatives — bonds for the planned Duportail bridge and money to pay for maintaining the city’s streets.
Plans for the bridge, which would span the Yakima River and connect Highway 240 with Queensgate Drive, started in 2007.
The state Legislature set aside $20 million in a $16 billion transportation package for the bridge. The city secured most of the rest of the $38 million needed through other sources, but needs $2.25 million to finish the project.
Officials predict the connection will save upgrade costs for Interstate 182, prevent traffic-related deaths and injuries, and improve access to trails and a boat ramp on the Yakima River, along with other improvements.
Construction is expected to begin in 2017, with the bridge opening in 2020.
The remaining portion, roughly $680,000, would pay for preserving pavement throughout the city.
The city put a plan in place to make sure the roads throughout the city don’t deteriorate too quickly. It’s easier and less expensive to keep a road in good condition, using a small amount of asphalt or a chip seal, than it is to dig up a road, said Pete Rogalsky, the city’s public works director.
The city presently budgets about $1.2 million per year to maintaining streets, roughly $2 million less than it predicts it should.
The district’s board will take one more look at the fee at its next meeting in two weeks.
Some opponents of the measure spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. Many residents have raised concerns about the fairness of the fee since it was first proposed, saying people from across the region will benefit from the bridge, but only Richland residents are paying for it. Others say the fee is unreasonable for retirees living on a fixed income.
City officials promise the $20 fee would end in 20 years after the bond is paid off. The city committed to not increasing the fee, though the law allows the city to raise it to $40 after two years and $50 after two more years.
Two board members suggested developing a program that would waive the fee for low-income individuals.