Chelan-Douglas Trends e-Newsletter


A safe and effective road system is crucial for the transportation of people, as well as the goods and services people rely on. Most regional roads are financed and maintained with local public funding. Public funding levels can be a reflection of the quality and safety of local road systems. Economic growth and vitality depends on the ability of people and goods to move freely from one area to another.

Since mobility is important to a community for many different reasons, local government expenditures on road operations and maintenance is tracked on the Trends website two ways: first is on a per capita basis (expenditures per person) and per $1,000 of total personal income (TPI).

The U.S. Regional Economic Analysis Project defines Personal Income as "income that is received by all persons from all sources. It is calculated as the sum of wage and salary disbursements, supplements to wages and salaries, proprietors' income with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments, rental income of persons with capital consumption adjustment, personal dividend income, personal interest income, and personal current transfer receipts, less contributions for government social insurance."

Total personal income (TPI) is the total sum of all personal income earned by all persons in an area - before any taxes are paid. Using the local government expenditures per $1,000 TPI ratio allows us to understand how big a share of a resident's budget is contributed to road maintenance and operations.

Examining the Local Government Expenditures on Road Maintenance & Operations indicator, we see both the per capita and per $1,000 TPI in the combined counties have consistently been above the state benchmarks.

More specifically, during 2016, per capita expenditures were $211.70 in the combined counties, compared to $169.90 as an average of local government expenditures across the state. Expenditures per $1,000 TPI was $4.80 in the combined counties compared to $3.10 as an average of local government expenditures across the state.

During 2016 Chelan County individually, local government expenditures were $188.40 per capita and $4.00 per $1,000 TPI. Also during 2016, Douglas County local government expenditures were $255.30 and $6.80 respectively.

While TPI is not available at the city-level, during 2016, the City of Wenatchee local government expenditures on road operations and maintenance were $72.30 per capita and the City of East Wenatchee were $100.20.

Rob Jammerman, Public Works Director for the City of Wenatchee, says road maintenance and operations funds are used for road crew salaries and benefits, traffic control (lights and signs), sidewalks, lighting, cleaning and sweeping, and snow and ice removal.

Jammerman said "Our existing infrastructure needs to be cared for because it has a limited lifespan. Without constant maintenance, the roadway eventually becomes unrepairable leaving a complete replacement as the only option, which is much more expensive than routine maintenance."

The City of Wenatchee Annual Street Preservation fund, which does not come out of the road maintenance and operations budget, proactively funds repairs to roadways so they do not fall to a level requiring a complete replacement. Roadway degradation can be caused by general wear and tear, studded tire damage, utility street cuts, and cracks naturally forming in the asphalt. If left unrepaired, these issues can lead to larger issues such as potholes, depressions or distortions on the surface, an increase in the number and size of surface cracks, and the start of surface disintegration.

Because complete reconstruction of roadways are more expensive than maintenance, Jammerman says, "Jurisdictions can reduce large investments if they focus on programmatic maintenance."

For large street improvement projects, Jammerman said state and federal funds are usually applied for via grants often require local government to fund a certain percentage of a project. If a federal or state grant is awarded requiring local funds as part of a grant match, those funds come out of local road budgets, but are specifically earmarked for grant match opportunities.

As with most government budgets, fund allocation is a delicate balance of what makes us healthy, happy, and safe. While police and fire take up large parts of a local government budget, it's also important to make sure the flow of people and goods are not slowed or stopped due to potholes in the summer and snow berms in the winter.

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