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AGO 1978 No. 16 - May 10, 1978
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑ STATE ‑ URBAN ARTERIAL BOARD ‑ FUNDS ‑ HIGHWAYS ‑ STREETS ‑ ROADS ‑ UTILIZATION OF URBAN ARTERIAL TRUST ACCOUNT MONEYS

(1) The Urban Arterial Board (UAB) may allocate urban arterial trust account moneys for construction projects on city arterials which form a part of the state highway system, but only if such moneys are requested by a city and the project otherwise meets all requirements for urban arterial projects.

(2) The Urban Arterial Board is not permitted or required to allocate urban arterial trust account moneys for the construction of state highways outside of incorporated cities or towns.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   May 10, 1978

Honorable George W. Scott
State Senator, 46th Dist.
2530 N.E. 105th Place
Seattle, Washington 98125

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1978 No. 16

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested our opinion on two questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) Is the Urban Arterial Board (UAB) permitted or required to allocate urban arterial trust account moneys, derived from the sale of urban arterial bonds, to cities for construction projects on city streets which form a part of the state highway system?

            (2) Is the Urban Arterial Board (UAB) permitted or required to allocate urban arterial trust account moneys for the construction of state highways outside of incorporated cities?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            We answer question (1) in the affirmative as qualified in our analysis and question (2) in the negative for the reasons stated therein.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1):

            In an informal memorandum opinion dated February 1, 1968, copy enclosed, the then chief counsel for the Washington State Highway Commission advised the chairman of the UAB that urban arterial trust account moneys could legally be expended for the construction of city arterials which also formed a part of the state highway system.  Since that time, many such city arterials have been improved with urban arterial funds requested by cities from the UAB.  Although for somewhat different reasons we now adhere to the conclusion reached in this 1968 memorandum opinion.

            Prior to the adoption of the urban arterial program in 1967, and since, many streets within an incorporated city or town possess a dual character as local city streets which also form a part of a state highway route.  Section 60, chapter 187, Laws of 1937, the original state aid highway act, provided that all funds accruing to the credit of an incorporated city or town in the state motor vehicle fund were to be used for the construction, improvement and maintenance of city streets which were designated as a part of the route of a primary state highway.  Accordingly, under this original act a city's share of motor vehicle funds, with limited exceptions, could not be used on any city street not so designated.

            The 1937 act was then amended by §§ 4 and 5 of chapter 220, Laws of 1949.  Section 4 of chapter 220 (RCW 47.24.020) authorized moneys accruing to the credit of incorporated cities and towns in the motor vehicle fund to be paid to the city street fund and disbursed for the construction, improvement and maintenance of any city street.  This section further provided that such expenditures may be made either independently or in conjunction with any federal, state or county funds.  Section 5 of the 1949 act (RCW 47.24.010) provided that all city streets designated as a part of the state highway system shall be constructed and maintained from state funds.  The latter provision, however, was qualified in that the city or town was charged with the financial responsibility for constructing certain portions of a street forming part of a state highway route as well as performing certain maintenance and operation functions in connection  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] with such a street.  RCW 47.24.020.  Right of way for such streets may be acquired either by the city or the state or by both.  RCW 47.24.020(15).

            Under these sections, the state Department of Transportation at the present time has primary responsibility for constructing, improving and maintaining city streets forming a part of the state highway system, subject to the several qualifications contained in RCW 47.24.020.  A city, on the other hand,may expend its portion of the motor vehicle fund allocation for the construction, improvement or maintenance of any city street, including streets forming a part of the state highway system.

            Chapter 83, Laws of 1967, Ex. Sess., establishing the urban arterial program, did not alter the funding responsibilities with respect to city streets forming a part of a state highway route, as described hereinabove.  RCW 47.26.080 created the urban arterial trust account in which have been placed the proceeds from the sale of urban arterial bonds.  This section provides in part:

            ". . .  All moneys deposited in the motor vehicle fund to be credited to the urban arterial trust account shall be expended for the construction and improvement of city arterial streets . . ."

            The legislature's prior and present definition of "city street" does not exclude those streets designated as part of the state system.  That definition, as contained in RCW 47.04.010(6), is as follows:

            "(6) 'City street.'  Every highway as herein defined, or part thereof located within the limits of incorporated cities and towns, except alleys;"

            By contrast, the definition of county road which is contained in RCW 47.04.010(9) is as follows:

            "(9) 'County road.'  Every highway as herein defined, or part thereof, outside the limits of incorporated cities and towns andwhich has not been designated as a state highway, or branch thereof;" (Emphasis supplied)

            Accordingly, we conclude that a city street meeting the criteria established by the Urban Arterial Board as an arterial city  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] street may be improved with urban arterial trust account moneys even though it may have been designated as forming a part of a state highway route.  Whether in fact any such street may receive urban arterial funds, however, depends initially upon whether the city requests such funds for improvement of the street.  RCW 47.26.280 provides in part:

            ". . .  Commencing on October 1, 1967, the board at the time of making each quarterly apportionment shall allocate urban arterial trust funds for each region to specific counties and cities within the region for the construction of specific urban arterial projects.  The board shall allocate such funds to the counties and cities based upon the priority rating of construction projects for which urban arterial trust account moneys are requested by the counties and cities.  The board shall determine the priority of specific improvement projects based upon the rating of each urban arterial section proposed to be improved in relation to all other urban arterial sections proposed to be improved taking into account the following:

            ". . ."

            Based upon the foregoing, we would advise you, in direct answer to your first question, that a city may request an allocation of urban arterial trust account moneys for the improvement of an arterial street which has been designated as forming a part of a state highway route.  If a specific improvement project on such a street enjoys a sufficient priority based upon the statutory criteria, the UAB may allocate urban arterial trust account funds to the city for the improvement project.  There is nothing in the statutes, however, which requires a city to request urban arterial funds for the improvement of a city arterial forming a part of a state highway route.

            Question (2):

            In answer to your second question, RCW 47.26.080 authorizes the use of moneys deposited in the urban arterial trust account for the construction and improvement of city arterial streets and county arterial roads within urban areas.  As noted above, RCW 47.04.010(9) defines a county road as "Every highway as herein defined, or part thereof, outside the limits of incorporated cities and towns and which has not been designated as a state highway, or branch; . . ."  Accordingly, urban arterial trust  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] account moneys may not be expended for the improvement of state highways outside of incorporated cities and towns since by definition such highways are neither city arterial streets nor county arterial roads.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


THOMAS R. GARLINGTON
Senior Assistant Attorney General

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