Building Washington’s Infrastructure

Rick Larsen
May 15, 2018 · 6 min read

Infrastructure Week is upon us once again, and the administration still has not committed to a robust investment plan for U.S. infrastructure.

As I like to say, you cannot have a big league economy with little league infrastructure. Last year, the United States received a D+ on its infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers. If my son in college came home with a D+ in his calculus class, he would be in big trouble.

According to the Association of Washington Business, Washington state needs over $190 billion in infrastructure investments. Highways and local roads alone in Washington state require $134 billion in investment.

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I recently hosted a series of roundtable discussions where I heard about the transportation and infrastructure investment needs in Washington’s Second Congressional District.

During meetings with city and county officials, and local folks from Island, Whatcom, Snohomish and Skagit counties I heard a lot about their efforts to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of the state’s transportation system.

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During a meeting with folks from Whatcom County, I heard about Bellingham’s infrastructure needs, such as improvement to the Contract Tower at Bellingham International Airport.

One common theme that came up is the importance of federal funding partnerships for transit systems with local and regional significance.

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I met with city officials in Island County to hear about transportation and infrastructure needs, such as improvements to SR-20.

A well thought out plan must ensure the important role federal resources have in maintaining and modernizing infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. This is where the president’s recent infrastructure plan strikes out.

I am focused on strengthening federal investment in Washington’s infrastructure in order to sustain and build on the state’s economic growth and put folks in the Pacific Northwest to work.

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During a series of roundtable discussions across WA-02, I heard from officials on critical transportation and infrastructure needs.
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Snohomish County officials provide a list of local transportation needs, such as federal funding for rail-grade crossings and reducing congestion on the U.S. 2 trestle.

As part of this series of meetings across Washington’s Second District, I also toured the construction at Sound Transit’s Northgate Link light rail station with Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.

We discussed the recently passed federal spending package for fiscal year 2018 which triples funding for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, now known as BUILD grants to $1.5 billion and includes a $232 million increase for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants. These are critical for Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link and ST3 as well as Community Transit’s Swift Green Line.

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Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff and I recently toured construction at Northgate Sound Transit Station.

The 8.5 mile extension from Northgate to Lynnwood is expected to open in 2021 and will serve an additional 67,000 daily riders.

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The Northgate construction will eventually serve as a stop on the way to Lynnwood

Washington residents have voted three times to fund the Sound Transit expansion projects, the majority of which are self-funded. Until now, the federal government has not upheld its end of the bargain. I will continue to work to encourage the administration to sign and execute the Full Funding Grant Agreements to advance the development of this vital transit project.

As someone who uses public transportation every day, I understand the importance of these transit systems, especially bus systems, for working Americans. That is why I am the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bus Caucus, to champion a robust investment in buses and transit that will keep the economy thriving and commuters traveling to work, school and back home.

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I recently toured construction at the Community Transit Seaway Transit Center to about Swift Green line funding

Recently, the Federal Transit Administration issued a $43.2 million grant for Community Transit’s Swift Green line. The Green line is the second bus rapid transit route in Snohomish County that will connect major employment and residential centers including Canyon Park, Paine Field and Mill Creek Town Center.

Just last March, the Transportation Department announced a $1.375 million Bus and Bus Facilities grant for the City of Everett’s new electric buses, which will replace older assets. Skagit Transit was also awarded $1.375 million by the Department to help fund construction of a new maintenance and operations facility.

These projects are critical to the Northwest corridor as traffic congestion in the region increases. Everett was recently named as the most congested city in the U.S.

I also heard from folks in Snohomish and Whatcom Counties about the need for robust federal investment in ports and maritime transportation. Washington state is home to the country’s largest ferry system, some of the nation’s busiest ports and is the most trade dependent state in the country.

The state’s maritime industry contributes more than $21 billion in gross business income and directly employs more than 69,000 people. And the industry continues to grow by more than six percent annually.

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The Port of Everett was awarded nearly $10 million in TIGER grants in 2016 to support infrastructure modernization efforts

In 2016, the Port of Everett was awarded a nearly $10 million TIGER grant to support the port’s South Terminal Modernization project. These funds will strengthen hundreds of feet of dock, upgrade the port’s power systems and allow for a better flow of large vessels.

It is the largest capital project in the port’s history and the largest marine construction project on the West Coast today.

Continued federal investments like these will ensure critical infrastructure upgrades, like dock structure improvements and enhancements to port electrical equipment, are done efficiently.

I am also pushing my bill, the TIGER CUBS Act, to give small and mid-size cities access to TIGER funds for infrastructure needs so cities in the Second Congressional District like Arlington, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds and Lynnwood can play a greater role in powering Washington’s economy.

Keeping up with global competition is critical for Washington state’s ports. Puget Sound ports export the second highest amount of agricultural and forest products in the U.S. In 2015, more than 17 million tons of containerized cargo and 25 million tons of bulk and break bulk cargo passed through Washington’s ports to or from a foreign country.

These infrastructure investments are not only good for the economy, but are good for jobs. This is why it is imperative for Congress to invest in the next generation workforce. Preparing students to immediately succeed in manufacturing, engineering, maintenance and other STEM-focused careers is a win-win-win for job seekers, the transportation sector and Washington state’s economy.

When it comes to the current state of transportation and infrastructure in Washington state, clearly there is a lot going on.

While Infrastructure Week is a great way to remind officials of local transportation and infrastructure needs, Congress cannot let these critical projects fall off the radar. U.S. infrastructure is already at a D+. Congress must do everything it can to reverse the trend and recommit to its partnership with states to support transportation and infrastructure modernization.

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