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Auburn, cities seeking ways to support freight corridors

Given the grim assurance that no ongoing source of money from the federal, state or county level will be available in the foreseeable future to help cities maintain freight corridors on the valley floor, hard adjustments could be in the wind.

Some of them with deep, lasting implications for Auburn and other cities – Fife, Puyallup, Sumner, Pacific, Algona, Kent, Renton and Tukwila – members of the Valley Cities Association, an organization representing common interests.

Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis told the Auburn City Council on Monday that Valley Cities and the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle must work as a common economic unit to enable an ongoing funding source for the maintenance of freight corridors that service the valley's warehouse and distribution areas.

Or, if the ports decline to do their part, Valley Cities will have to start making long-term planning decisions to respond to the limitations on freight corridor maintenance, decisions with weighty implications for the ports that rely so heavily on those areas.

In Auburn's case, Lewis said, this could mean the re-designation of large areas of the City so they no no longer allow new or expanded freight dependent uses.

"We need to find a way to do something, and the ports of Seattle and Tacoma should be our partners in this," Lewis said. "If there are not going to be any funding sources, we simply cannot afford to be the warehouse, industrial area for King County any more. We might have to look at houses throughout the valley floor as an alternative that's cheaper for the city."

According to a memorandum Lewis sent to the mayors of the other Valley Cities on April 27, given the continued legislative opposition to a street maintenance utility, declining sales and property tax revenue, plus lack of voter support for local financing initiatives, the ability of the valley communities to plan for long-term economic and community growth could be significantly impacted.

Auburn's leaders are trying to figure out how to maintain freight corridors in the city after the stinging defeat at voters' hands April 17 of a $59 million road bond measure. Among the alternatives: reducing speed limits on local freight corridors, like West and East Valley highways, to make them last a little longer, and using chip sealing to maintain the corridors instead of more expensive long-term fixes.

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