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Multimodal Transportation Funds Released To Cities and Counties on April 15

Multimodal Transportation Funds Released To Cities and Counties on April 15

Last year’s legislative session produced ESSB 5987, the transportation package, which provided a new revenue source for cities and counties that was in addition to the motor vehicle fuel tax revenues received each month. The bill added Section 331, which provided for a direct distribution in the 2015 – 2017 state biennium of $11,719,000. This direct distribution comes from two different sources:

  • Motor Vehicle Fund in the amount of $5,469,000.
  • Multimodal Fund in the amount of $6,250,000.

As stated in the bill, these distributions are to be shared equally between cities and counties and should be distributed on a quarterly basis throughout the state biennium. Cities will share the direct distribution on a per capita basis and counties will have their half distributed based upon the formula currently used for the distribution of the motor vehicle fuel tax revenues. All of the funds being distributed are restricted to expenditure for transportation purposes (RCW 46.68.070, 47.30.030, 47.66.070).

This new revenue source for transportation was a welcome addition to budget weary street and road funds, however there was one small problem, the multimodal funds did not get appropriated in the transportation budget. RCW 47.66.070 states, “Moneys in the account may be spent only after appropriation.” As a result cities and counties had to wait until the next legislative session so that the appropriation could be included in the supplemental transportation budget.  The legislative session took a bit longer than anticipated but here we are and the funds will be released on Friday, April 15th!  This initial distribution should include the first two quarters of the state biennium that were missed (September 2015 and December 2015) along with the March 2016 distribution.

The State Auditor’s Office (SAO) has assigned a new BARS code for the recording and tracking of these funds since they are coming from transportation sources other than the fuel tax. The new BARS codes, for cities and counties are:

  • Cities - BARS account code 336.00.71
  • Counties – BARS account code 336.00.75

So where do we record these new resources and how can we use them?

RCW 47.66.070 provides for the multimodal transportation account and states that the funds "may be used only for transportation purposes." Transportation is defined as “the movement of people, animals and goods from one location to another.”  Chapter 47.66 RCW provides the statutes applicable to "multimodal transportation programs" however, this chapter does not have a definition of multimodal. Multimodal is a planning concept associated with transportation.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in its 2007-2026 Washington Transportation Plan, provides a basic idea of this planning concept in the glossary of terms:

Multimodal Transportation Systems. Buses, ferries, cars, bicycles, and aviation are all examples of modes of travel. In a multimodal transportation system, each of these components is factored in so that service can be delivered efficiently. For example, the waterfront trolley that conveys ferry passengers to a bus terminal might be considered an interdependent multimodal transportation system.

WSDOT is updating this planning document in phases to meet federal and state requirements for long-range statewide transportation planning and to help guide the development of the state’s multimodal transportation system. That system includes public roads, ferries, public transportation, aviation, freight and passenger rail, ports, and bicycles and pedestrian facilities.  This is a work in progress, but demonstrates the fact that transportation is taking on a broader meaning than simply vehicular transport.

It is our interpretation that use of these funds must be for "transportation" purposes and those can include multiple forms of transportation.  It is also our recommendation that these funds should be recorded within your street and/or road fund because of the restrictions imposed by RCW 47.66.070 to use “only for transportation purposes.”

The good news for local government is that it has a new source of revenue for transportation! 

Question or comment about these distributions? Post them in the comments below or email me directly at

Photo couresy of SDOT.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

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About Toni Nelson

Toni worked with many local governments and authored numerous MRSC publications on budgeting, cash basis accounting and reporting, and the application of Washington State B.A.R.S. requirements. During her time at MRSC, she also conducted multiple trainings annually on similar subjects and was consider an expert in small city finance issues. She retired in 2020.