Wednesday, December 8, 2021

$ 8.6B Federal Infrastructure Package Changes the Game in Washington State

As more details emerge about the new federal infrastructure package, the magnitude of its impact in and around Seattle and Washington is becoming more evident – and significant.

Under the $ 1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which Congress approved Friday night, Washington will receive nearly $ 8.6 billion in trust funds and billions more in potential grants. everything from highways and bridges to electric vehicle charging stations and public broadband. transit and safer drinking water.

The result will be a huge needed boost for a state where infrastructure construction and financing has not kept pace with population growth or economic growth.

“We believe this is a game changer,” said Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit, which will receive approximately $ 380 million in targeted funding for the regional light rail system and will also compete for federal grants.

As part of the IIJA package, Washington will receive about $ 4.7 billion for highways, $ 605 million for bridges and another $ 1.8 billion in public transport spending over the next five years; The White House estimates $ 882 million to improve infrastructure and drinking water safety and $ 385 million for state airports, including $ 228 for Seattle / Tacoma International Airport and $ 16 million for Paine Field in Snohomish County.

There is also $ 100 million to expand access to broadband Internet for nearly a quarter of a million people in the state who do not have it, and $ 71 million to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging network; and even funds for salmon restoration, including $ 1 billion for a national effort to remove culverts.

“Add it all up and you have billions and billions of dollars for Washington State,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal from Seattle, who was involved in the negotiations on House Measures 228 through 206.

But there was also local frustration about what was not in IIJA.

Several previously more ambitious proposals for reducing carbon emissions to reduce climate change were lacking. Also missing were earlier proposals to expand the infrastructure concept to include things like childcare and paid leave, which are “really important for families with young children,” said Jenny Romich, professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work and a leading specialists. expert on poverty and social policy. Despite the efforts of the progressive democrats, Romich said, “the argument“ caring for children is an infrastructure ”has not been successful.”

Many of these ideas were in the broader and more expensive proposals of the White House and the progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives, but were gradually discarded in the face of strong opposition from moderate parties 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 lead to yet another clash between the party moderates and the progressive, with Jayapal and Washington Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray playing key roles.

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However, the IIJA includes what many describe as historic amounts of federal money for much-needed infrastructure improvements in Washington, where critics say infrastructure spending has been delayed for years.

According to the White House report on the infrastructure package, the state has 416 bridges and more than 5,400 miles of motorways that are in poor condition.

IIJA will also help Washington’s airports and seaports keep up with the state’s rapidly growing population and export-oriented economy, Cantwell said.

“Our trade and port infrastructure really employs a lot of people in our state, and this is really the key to our competitiveness,” said Cantwell. “Because if someone thinks that their product cannot move quickly through our ports, they will choose other places.”

This focus on trade is expected to help Washington secure a significant portion of the grant funding offered under the law. The IIJA includes multi-billion dollar grants that Washington, local governments and agencies can apply for and potentially use on projects such as modernizing seaports, improving railroad crossings, and even building a new bridge between Washington and Oregon. Washington’s large port sector, a key export channel for goods from the Midwest and other regions, makes the state a top contender for funding, according to congressional aides.

The increase in grant funding is expected to help reduce the region’s share of the growth in Sound Transit light rail spending, Rogoff said. For example, where the federal share of Federal Way and Lynnwood expansion costs were only 25% and 36%, respectively, Sound Transit hopes to gain a “much higher federal share” for the West Seattle, Tacoma and Everett expansions as part of infrastructure measures. – said Rogoff.

“And it’s clear that every dollar we get from the federal government for these projects is one dollar less than our local taxpayers have to pay for the same projects,” he said.

Political experts warn against the immediate consequences of infrastructural measures.

Unlike much of the pandemic’s federal spending that was aimed at helping laid-off workers or stranded businesses, “this is not a quick introduction of incentives,” said James McCafferty, director of the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University.

“You can’t design a road or bridge and build it overnight,” added Debra Glassman, professor of finance and business economics at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. “We will see the effect manifest over the next few years. After that time, we will look back and see that this account was large and transformative. “

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