Federal Infrastructure Package Is $ 8.6 Billion ‘Game Changer’ For Washington State
As more details emerge about the new federal infrastructure package, the magnitude of its impact in and around Seattle and across Washington becomes clearer and clearer – and that’s important. .
Under the $ 1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which Congress approved on Friday night, Washington will see nearly $ 8.6 billion in dedicated funds and billions more in potential grants. for everything from highways and bridges to charging stations for electric vehicles and broadband to the public. transit and safer drinking water.
The result will be a massive and necessary boost for a state where infrastructure construction and financing have not kept pace with population growth or economic expansion.
“We see this as a game changer,” said Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit, which will get around $ 380 million in dedicated funding for the regional streetcar system and will also be competing for federal grants.
Under the IIJA package, Washington will receive over the next five years approximately $ 4.7 billion for highways and $ 605 million for bridges and an additional $ 1.8 billion in public transport spending; $ 882 million to improve drinking water infrastructure and safety; and $ 385 million for state airports, including $ 228 million for Sea-Tac International Airport and $ 16 million for Paine Field in Snohomish County, according to estimates provided by the White House.
There is also $ 100 million to expand high-speed internet access to nearly a quarter of a million residents of the state who do not have it and $ 71 million to expand the vehicle charging network. state electricity; and even funds for salmon recovery, including $ 1 billion for national efforts to remove culverts from waterways.
âAdd it all up and it’s billions and billions of dollars for Washington state,â said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, who helped negotiate the House measure, which went from 228 to 206.
But there was also a local disappointment over what was not in the IIJA.
Several earlier, more ambitious proposals were missing to reduce carbon emissions in order to reduce climate change. Previous proposals to expand the concept of infrastructure to include things like child care and paid time off, which is “really important for families with young children,” said Jennie Romich, a professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work and expert in poverty and social policy. Despite the best efforts of progressive Democrats, Romich said, “the ‘child care is infrastructure’ argument has not been accepted.”
Many of these ideas had been the subject of larger and costly proposals by the White House and progressive House Democrats, but were phased out in the face of strong resistance from moderates and Republicans.
Democrats plan to include some of these proposals in a separate $ 1.75 trillion measure called the Build Back Better Act. This is expected to result in a new confrontation between the moderates and progressives in the party, with Democratic Senators Jayapal and Washington Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray playing key roles.
Still, the IIJA includes what many call historic amounts of federal funds for much-needed infrastructure improvements in Washington, where critics say infrastructure spending has lagged for years.
The state has 416 bridges and more than 5,400 miles of poorly maintained highways, according to a White House summary of the infrastructure package.
The IIJA will also help Washington’s airports and seaports keep up with the state’s rapid population growth and export-driven economy, Cantwell said.
âOur commercial and port infrastructure really employs a lot of people in our state, and that’s really the key to our competitiveness,â Cantwell said. âBecause if someone thinks that their product cannot pass through our ports quickly, they will choose other places. “
This focus on trade should help Washington secure much of the subsidies offered under the legislation. The IIJA includes multibillion-dollar grants that Washington and local governments and agencies can bid on and potentially use on projects such as seaport upgrades, level crossing improvements, and even a new bridge between Washington and Oregon. Washington’s large port area, a key export channel for goods from the Midwest and other regions, makes the state a top contender for funding, congressional advisers said.
Increases in grant funding are also expected to help reduce the region’s share of rising costs for the Sound Transit light rail, Rogoff said. For example, where the federal share of Federal Way and Lynnwood expansion costs was only 25% and 36%, respectively, Sound Transit hopes to achieve “a much higher federal share” for the West Seattle expansions, Tacoma and Everett as part of the infrastructure measure, says Rogoff.
âAnd obviously, every dollar we get from the federal government to build these projects is a dollar less that our local taxpayers have to pay for these same projects,â he said.
Political experts have warned against expecting an immediate impact from the infrastructure measure.
Unlike much of the federal spending in the pandemic, which was aimed at bailing out laid-off workers or struggling businesses, “this is not a quick stimulus injection,” said James McCafferty, director of the Center for Economic and Business. Research from Western University of Washington.
âYou can’t design a road or a bridge and build it overnight,â added Debra Glassman, professor of finance and business economics at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. âWe will see the effects unfold over a period of several years. At the end of this period, we will look back and we can see that this bill was important and transformative. “