More transportation options could come to Point Roberts with passage of Shewmake bill


OLYMPIA — Legislation allowing certain border-area fuel tax proceeds to fund more types of transportation improvements passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday.


The border-area fuel tax is a local transportation tax that localities within ten miles of an international border crossing may impose with voter approval. Currently, the proceeds of the border- fuel area tax must be used only for street maintenance and construction, but Senate Bill 6017, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham), would expand the allowable uses to cover other transportation improvements, including transit.

Point Roberts is one of four Whatcom County communities to use this local option and the only one impacted by the proposed changes. Right now, Point Roberts has $1.2 million from the border-area fuel tax which can’t be spent because of the account restrictions.

“The border closures were devastating for Point Roberts, and we need to do more to make it easier for families and residents to live in Point Roberts,” Shewmake said. “If SB 6017 is signed into law, Point Roberts could work with the Whatcom Transportation Authority to run vans that would pick up kids after school in Blaine, so they could play sports or go to clubs, or it could shuttle residents to medical appointments in mainland Whatcom County.”

“During the COVID lockdowns, Point Roberts encountered many challenges, including revenue loss,” Point Roberts Taxpayers Association President Mark Robbins said. “A current challenge for the area is needing to bus children 28 miles through multiple border crossings. … The community would like to expand the permissible uses of the border-area fuel tax in order to provide necessary transportation services.”

“I’m thrilled the vote in the Senate was unanimous. That’s great news for its chances in the House, but it’ll still take work and relationship building to ensure everyone understands why this legislation is so dearly needed,” Shewmake said. “In 2015, Sen. Ericksen and Reps. Van Werven and Buys introduced similar legislation. It was a good idea then, and it’s a good idea now.”

The bill now moves to the House for consideration — follow its progress here.