Taxpayers hash out gas tax ideas

By Andrew Grubb

Ever since the Point Roberts transportation benefit district (TBD) was created in 1992, there’s been no shortage of ideas on how to spend the money raised by the 1 cent a gallon tax on gas sales on the Point. It’s actually getting the money that has been the problem.

In an effort to break the logjam, the Point Roberts Taxpayers Association held a brainstorming session November 8 to create a list of priority projects that can be presented to the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) for consideration. PRCAC acts as liaison between the Point Roberts community and the Whatcom County government. “I think if you ask 10 different people on the street about how to spend the gas tax, you get 10 different answers,” said taxpayer board member Jeff Christopher, who is also the taxpayers representative on PRCAC. Christopher told the board that he would like to walk out of the meeting with a road map on how to proceed.

There have been a number of ideas in the past that failed to gain headwind. These include a roundabout at Benson Road and Tyee Drive, rumble strips to act as traffic calming devices and road end beautification projects. In fact, the only project that PRCAC has endorsed is creating a pedestrian shoulder on Marine Drive adjacent to Lighthouse Marine Park. Many community members have supported that idea due to its proximity to the park and campground.

Alternate taxpayer board member Steve Wolff reported on a conversation he had with Brian Walker, public works liaison to PRCAC, who told Wolff, “We can’t just give you a budget just on that … let’s look at everything you guys would like, we can study all of that at once and then we can get back to giving you a set of budgets.”

Not surprising, given long standing public interest in trails, the paving of selected shoulders for pedestrian and bicycle use proved to be the most popular among the group. Various locations recommended by group members included Benson Road. Judson Meraw suggested the southern shoulder between Tyee Drive and South Beach Road would be a good place to start, since it previously had shoulder work done but was never paved.

Another section that merited consideration was the south side of APA Road extending from Simundson Drive to Pauls Road to meet up where the Seabright trail begins. A paved shoulder already exists from the corner of Tyee Drive to just east of Simundson Drive.

Another suggestion was made to extend the proposed shoulder widening at Lighthouse Marine Park north to Gulf Road, thereby creating a trail from the park to the commercial core of Point Roberts. Meraw pointed out that the various suggestions, if carried out, would essentially create a new multi-modal pedestrian and cycling circuit.

Another issue needing to be hashed out with the county is what projects should be county-financed through general road funds and which should be paid for out of gas tax revenues. A few years back, the county attempted to access gas funds in order to pay for re-surfacing of Tyee Drive which created a storm of controversy.

Both the taxpayers association and PRCAC encourage the public to suggest projects that would benefit the community and the goals of the gas tax. Comments and suggestions can be emailed to comments@pointrobertscac.org.

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