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AGO 1984 No. 7 - February 29, 1984
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Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTIES ‑- CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- ROADS AND BRIDGES ‑- APPLICABILITY OF CHAPTER 130, LAWS OF 1983 TO CERTAIN BRIDGE PROJECT

  Because the First Avenue South Bridge in Seattle is a part of the state highway system, and not a county road, RCW 36.83.010 does not authorize King County to form a service district as a financing tool for improvements and/or new construction relating to that specific bridge.

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                                                                February 29, 1984 

Honorable Phil Talmadge
St. Sen., 34th District
436 Public Lands Building
Olympia, Washington 98504

Cite as:  AGO 1984 No. 7                                                                                                                  

  Dear Sir:

             By letter previously acknowledged you requested our opinion on the following question:

             Does Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 3161 (Chapter 130, Laws of 1983) permit King County to form a service district as a financing tool for improvements and/or new construction to the First Avenue South Bridge?

             We answer in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             By its enactment of chapter 130, Laws of 1983, the legislature established an additional means of financing the construction of county road or bridge improvements.  Basically, the act provides for the establishment of one or more service districts within a county ". . . for the purpose of providing and funding capital and maintenance costs for any bridge or road improvement a road district has the authority to provide. . . ."  See, § 1, chapter 130,supra (now codified as RCW 36.83.010).  The authorized means of financing those projects by such a "service district" include the imposition ofad valorem property taxes on all property within the district (RCW 36.83.030); the issuance of general obligation  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] bonds (RCW 36.83.040); and the imposition of special assessments (RCW 36.83.050).

             Section 1 (RCW 36.83.010), supra, also provides, however, that,

             ". . . A service district may not include any area within the corporate limits of a city or town unless the city or town governing body adopts a resolution approving inclusion of the area within its limits. . . ."

             And, as also noted in your initial letter requesting this opinion, the First Avenue South Bridge is within the Seattle city limits.  We therefore asked you, by return letter, whether the City of Seattle has adopted ". . . a resolution approving inclusion of the area within. . ." the limits of the proposed service district.  In response, by letter dated January 30, 1984, you asked us to assume, for purposes of our response to your opinion request,

             ". . . that the City of Seattle will give approval by adopting a resolution for inclusion of the First Avenue Bridge in its area limits."

             So much, therefore, for that issue.  Unfortunately, however, there is also another problem which is, likewise, alluded to in your original opinion request.  We have now confirmed, as well, the further fact that the First Avenue South Bridge, in Seattle, is part of State Route 99, a state highway.  By definition, therefore, it is not part of a "county road" as that term is defined in RCW 36.75.010(6); i.e.,

            "Terms used in this title, with relation to roads and bridges, mean:

             ". . .

             "(6) 'County road,' every highway or part thereof, outside the limits of incorporated cities and towns and which has not been designated as a state highway;

            ". . ."

             However, a service district established pursuant to chapter 130, Laws of 1983,supra, is only authorized for the purpose of providing and funding capital and maintenance costs for,

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            ". . . any bridge or road improvement a road district has the authority to provide. . . ."

             County road districts are, in turn, only authorized to provide for the construction and maintenance of county roads.  See, RCW 36.75.060,et seq.

             We therefore must conclude, under the above‑noted factual circumstances, that the provisions of chapter 130, Laws of 1983, supra, are not legally available to the legislative authority of King County for the purpose of forming a service district as a financing tool for improvements and/or new construction to the First Avenue South Bridge‑-even if the Seattle City Council were, in fact, to adopt a resolution permitting the area to be included within the boundaries of the service district.  Your question, as above stated, thus must be answered in the negative.1/

              [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

 Very truly yours,
KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Senior Deputy Attorney General 

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

 1/In addition, anticipating the possibility of that answer to your primary question, you also asked us to identify other possible financing tools for this bridge project.  On that count we advise you as follows:

 Funding of major highway improvements such as the First Avenue South Bridge by the Department of Transportation is governed by a priority selection process set forth in chapter 47.05 RCW.  The First Avenue South Bridge is a part of State Route 99 in Seattle.  Construction of a new parallel bridge to provide greater traffic capacity would be classified as a Category "C" project under RCW 47.05.030.  Such projects are defined as "the development of major transportation improvements (other than improvements to the interstate system to be funded with federal aid at the regular interstate rate under federal law and regulations) including designated but unconstructed highways which are vital to the state‑wide transportation network."  RCW 47.05.051(6) sets forth the criteria for the selection of specific Category "C" projects.  One of those criteria, subsection (g), is the "feasibility of financing the full proposed improvement."  The great cost of an additional First Avenue South Bridge estimated between $80 and $90 million has, according to the Department of Transportation, constituted the major factor precluding the selection of this project for funding. 

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