Spokane’s Street Bond Program
(509) 625-6700 
Frequently Asked Questions

How is the City paying for the 10-Year Street Bond Program?

In November of 2004, citizens voted to accept a $117,351,000 bond issue to pay for a 10-year construction plan that will repair 110 miles of Spokane streets. Bond project construction started in 2005 and will be complete in 2015. The bonds are paid for by an increase in property tax estimated at $68 per year for a $100,000 home for 20 years, or approximately $5.67 per month.

Are senior citizens exempt from the property tax increase?

Yes, for property owners who are either 62 years’ old in the tax year or disabled, a property tax exemption is available on your residence if the combined family income is $30,000 or less. This exemption is on voter approved excess or special levies. In addition, if your income is $24,000 or less, a portion of the regular levy amount may be exempt. If your income is $18,000 or less, you are exempt from regular levies on the first $50,000 or 60% of your home’s assessed value, whichever is greater.

To apply for exemption or for more information, contact the Spokane County Assessor, Exemption Section, 1116 W. Broadway Ave., Spokane, WA 99260-0010, (509) 477-5754 or www.spokanecounty.org/assessor/SeniorTaxExemptions.asp. You may also contact the State of Washington, Department of Revenue, Property Tax Division, PO Box 47471, Olympia, WA 98504-7471, Telephone (360)-486-2342.

How did we get so far behind in street repair and maintenance?

Our streets are naturally aging and increased traffic volume and loads (weights) allowed on City streets simply accelerate the deterioration of our streets. The cost of street repair is growing at a far greater pace than revenues, which have declined.

  • Fuel tax revenues have declined more than 35% since 1996 due to how it is allocated statewide
  • Citizen initiatives such as the lost motor vehicle license fees, and I-747 have limited tax increases
  • State and federal funding for local transportation needs have declined
  • Increased demand on the City’s General Fund by other citizen priorities has occurred
  • Additional revenue was lost in 2000 when parking meter revenues were placed in escrow as part of the River Park Square parking garage issue; the City pledged those monies in a public-private partnership to cover shortfalls in garage operations and maintenance.

What income funds street repair/rehabilitation needs, besides the 10-Year Street Bond?

In addition, capital improvement transportation projects that address safety and congestion are largely funded by state and federal grants at about $6 million annually. This funding is typically restricted and may not be used for maintenance and repair work. In Spokane, the City leverages its resources for qualifying projects at a rate of about $1 local to $4 grants.

What income funds street repair/maintenance?

Local street maintenance is funded from the City’s General Fund, the City’s portion of the State gas tax, Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) and a portion of the State’s Arterial Street Fund that supports the maintenance of City streets.

What is the City’s “Street Fund”?

The City’s “Street Fund” is a separate, special revenue fund established to receive moneys for street operations, and repair and maintenance needs only. By State law, the fund for street maintenance is separate from the City’s General Fund, and is audited annually as part of the City’s annual audit by the Washington State Auditor’s Office.

What is the Unpaved Road Cost Sharing Fund for Low Income Areas?

Spokane has nearly 40 miles of unpaved streets. Paving these streets will improve air quality, increase property values and facilitate emergency response.
The Unpaved Streets Cost Sharing Fund helps citizens pay to have their streets paved and benefits low-income areas in our community where the predominate number of unpaved streets exist. For more information, click here to go to the Department of Engineering Services ‘Local Improvement District’ page.

How does Spokane compare with other cities in terms of what we pay on street repair?

The average spending per capita in some 55 comparable-sized cities throughout the U.S. is $50.77 compared to about $28.25 per capita in Spokane, according to the National Pavement Management Association.

Construction Issues 
Where can I find out if my street or route will be repaired/rehabilitated?

A list of both arterial and residential streets to be repaired or rehabilitated over the course of the 10-Year Street Bond program can be found on the10-Year Street Bond Mappageof this website. The years in which each project is scheduled for construction also are included there.

What are arterial streets?

Arterial streets provide mobility and provide access to land. Arterials collect and route traffic to and from the traffic generators, provide access to adjacent land, are typically controlled by signals or stop signs and are typically striped with lane lines and may have curbs and sidewalks.

Function and traffic volumes classify arterials:

  • Principal Arterial – The primary function is mobility; 26,000 to 40,000 Average Daily Traffic (ADT), handles flow between major sections of the City, handles heavy truck traffic, typically 4 to 8 or more lanes of traffic.
  • Minor Arterial – The primary function is mobility; 9,500 to 19,500 ADT, handles flow between smaller sections of the City, connects the principal arterials, can handle truck traffic, typically 3 to 5 lanes of traffic
  • Collector Arterial/Neighborhood Arterial serve industrial/commercial and residential areas – The primary function is access to land, with mobility a secondary function; up to 7,000 ADT, handles flow between neighborhood sections of the City, provides connections between the principal and minor arterials, not primarily used for truck traffic, typical 2 to 5 lanes of traffic.

What are residential streets?

The single function of residential streets is to provide access to land and neighborhoods. Residential streets can vary dramatically in the average daily traffic (ADT), but most are below 5,000. If a residential street volume approaches the 5,000 ADT range, it may be beginning to function more like an arterial and traffic circulation should be reviewed. Residential streets are rarely striped for traffic and are typically only two lanes.

What is the “Perpetual Pavement Model” used by the Street Department?

The Perpetual Pavement Model (PPM) is an engineering theory that suggests that if streets are built deep enough they should last approximately 50 years, only requiring the top layer to be replaced on a prescribed maintenance schedule. Unfortunately, Spokane’s early streets were not built to this standard, which is, in part, why so many of our aging streets are deteriorating. However, Spokane’s Street Department has been employing this PPM practice as it reconstructs and replaces streets across the City so that future generations do not face the same problem we are facing now.

Why isn’t all construction done at night in order to minimize the impact on drivers?

There are a variety of reasons all construction projects aren’t done at night. Here are just a few of them: overnight construction cannot be done in residential areas because of the noise; certain project may not pose enough of a disruption to traffic to warrant working overnight; the pay scale is different for crews that work overnight, making it more expensive to complete overnight projects; and asphalt plants are not always willing to adjust their schedules to complete overnight work.

Why is the addition of sidewalks not included in reconstruction projects paid for by the 10-Street Bond?

Before the 10-Year Street Bond was put on the ballot, it was taken to a series of public meetings for citizen input. The consensus from the public was that Bond money should be used to pay for a greater amount of road reconstruction, rather than sidewalk repairs/installation accompanying Bond road projects. The Bond was put on the ballot with very little money devoted to sidewalks, and passed that way.

The Bond Program also does not have money allocated to traffic calming features, street lighting, bike lanes and other amenities.

Why does Spokane have so many potholes that break down our roads?

The freeze and thaw process that takes place every winter causes the potholes that you hear so much about.Moisture and severe cold causes pavement cracking that allows water to seep in, expand, and displace paving material. As the freeze/thaw cycle continues throughout the winter and early spring, the pavement crumbles more and more, causing potholes and deteriorating the roadway.

How are potholes repaired?

The excess material is shoveled away, an adhesive is applied and asphalt is added and compacted.

Is fixing potholes a long-term fix?

No. Pothole repairs and grind-and-patch repairs are definitely not long-term repairs. They are intended to improve the drivability of roads and increase safety in the short-term until each street is repaired or reconstructed.


Will the City maintain the streets the 10-Year Street Bond pays to repair?

Yes, we will maintain these streets. Streets brought to a “good” condition are much less costly and labor intensive to maintain. The challenge will be to continue to work to find additional direct street maintenance funding or to engage in partnerships with developers, the area transit system and other heavy users of our streets to help fund street maintenance.

What kind of rehabilitation and repair does this plan call for?

Arterial street rehabilitation entails the removal of existing asphalt and any unsuitable sub-base beneath the asphalt from curb to curb. New asphalt and sub-base is installed, the depth of which is designed based on the native ground and traffic forecast. The new street depth will be consistent with the perpetual pavement model.

Residential street rehabilitation is similar to arterial street reconstruction, but the design parameters are based on residential data, so the depth of the asphalt and sub-base will be substantially less than on an arterial street. Residential street repair also has other methods for street repair for streets with lower traffic volumes, such as chip or fog seals.

The Citizens Streets Advisory Commission (CSAC)is a technical accountability commission that meets monthly to review plans, costs, financial records, timeliness, appropriate use of materials and technology, and other measures related to the maintenance, repair, improvement and reconstruction of City streets and related structures. The commission is responsible for advising and informing the Mayor, City Council and the citizens of Spokane on all matters related to the above.Special emphasis is placed on the 10-Year Street Bond Program projects.

The CSAC also audits the methods used to repair/rehabilitate our roads on a regular basis.

Given that concrete should last longer than asphalt, why doesn’t Spokane build concrete streets instead of asphalt streets?

Cement concrete does last longer than asphalt when properly designed and constructed, but it also costs a lot more. We typically use concrete at busy intersections and on routes where there’s high truck traffic when analysis shows concrete to provide a lower life cycle cost than asphalt. We have found concrete to perform better in these areas of high traffic volume and heavy-weight loads.

It seems like Spokane’s streets don’t last very long. Shouldn’t they last a lifetime?

It does seem that way sometimes, but no, streets don’t last a lifetime, particularly in parts of the nation, like Spokane, where we experience freeze/thaw cycles every winter. According to national data, we know that arterial streets may have a life far beyond 20 years if an aggressive maintenance program occurs, such as crack sealing within 2 to 4 years and pavement overlays within 7 to 10 years of initial construction.

When the City hires a contractor to rebuild a street, how do we know that we are paying competitive prices for the work that is performed?

Federal, state and local laws require our contracts to be awarded on a low-bid, competitive basis. All contractors who bid for this work must be licensed, bonded and insured. The low bid process ensures that citizens pay the lowest possible price for the work performed.

Organization & Staffing

How is the City’s street program organized and staffed?

The Capital Programs section provides capital facilities planning for the City’s physical development and growth, such as water, sewer and streets. It seeks state and federal grants and low-interest loans to supplement the City’s resources for capital improvement projects that largely address safety enhancement and traffic congestion needs.

Engineering Servicesprovides design and construction administration services across the City spectrum, including streets. In addition, permitting for all work in the street or right-of-way, either public or private, is managed by Engineering Services. If the work requires any asphalt or concrete to be removed, Engineering Services inspects the work. The City’s Engineering Services group in coordination with the City of Spokane Valley and Spokane County has developed a new regional “pavement cut policy”. This agreement will maintain the quality of our streets as necessary utility cuts occur.To read the pavement cut policy, click here

The Street Department handles routine day-to-day repair and maintenance of the City’s public streets, bridges and traffic control devices.
How many full-time employees work on our streets?

The Street Department employs 113 full-time employees, 59 in Street Maintenance; 10 in Bridge Maintenance; 5 in Traffic Operations; 14 in Traffic Signs & Markers; 12 in Traffic Signals & lighting, and 13 in Parking Enforcement.

The Street Maintenance Division of the department is responsible for cleaning, repairing and performing preventive maintenance on 850 miles of paved streets and nearly 40 miles of gravel streets within the City. Its services include pavement repair, leaf pick-up, snow removal, street grading, street sweeping and weed control.

The Bridge Division inspects and maintains 56 bridges, which includes 38 vehicular and 18 pedestrian bridges.

The Signals & Lighting Division performs all preventive and corrective maintenance for over 300 traffic control signals within the City and about 2,600 street luminaries.

The Signs & Markers group installs and maintains traffic signs and pavement markings such as arterial striping within the City.

Traffic Operations conduct traffic investigations and counts, traffic monitoring, design and programming for the City’s entire traffic system and operation of the signal network.