08.10.21

Cantwell Outlines Big Wins for Washington State’s Infrastructure, Salmon, Economy

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will deliver on Senator Cantwell’s Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hailed the expected Senate passage of the $550 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) which will provide historic investments in Washington state and the nation’s critical infrastructure, and deliver significant funding for many of the Senator’s top priorities. The legislation, which contains numerous provisions authored and championed by Cantwell, includes historic boosts for vital transportation and water infrastructure projects all across the state, as well as dozens of measures to advance salmon recovery, restore Puget Sound’s ecosystem, combat wildfires and climate change, and fortify our electric grid.

“We’ve been blessed by growth and trade, but if we don’t make the infrastructure investments our economy won’t be able to keep up. For the first time ever, we’re authorizing three major investments that have to be made now if we are going to be able to keep pace,” said Senator Cantwell. “We’re authorizing federal funding for megaprojects so that we can complete those crucial multimodal projects that are too expensive for states to handle on their own. We’re authorizing at-grade rail crossing replacement because they are safety and congestion hazards in the northwest. And we’re authorizing funding for the removal and replacement of culverts so we can work to restore the salmon runs that are so important to the Pacific Northwest. This bill is going to create thousands of jobs all across the State of Washington, and it will allow us to better compete in the global economy while also improving people’s quality of life.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes the following new investments that will impact Washington state (funding authorization is over five years):

Transportation Infrastructure --

  • Megaprojects Grant Program: Authored by Senator Cantwell, this program will dedicate $5 billion in funding to support projects that are critical to our economy, but too large or complex for existing funding programs.
    • Washington faces a significant need to help fund these kinds of projects, such as the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project in Vancouver and the U.S. 2 Trestle Replacement in Everett.
  • Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant Program: This program, created by Senator Cantwell in the FAST Act of 2015, provides financial support to nationally and regionally significant freight and highway projects. $8 billion will be allocated to the INFRA Grant Program.
    • Since the program’s creation in 2015, the State of Washington has been awarded over $243.8 million.
  • Passenger and Freight Rail:
    • $3 billion for Senator Cantwell’s highway-rail grade crossing elimination grant program, the first-ever competitive highway-rail crossing grant program, which will help address Washington state’s top blocked crossings. The 50 most congested crossings in Washington are blocked for an average of two hours per day, with an average of 49 trains and 12,000 rail cars.
    • $5 billion for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program (CRISI) grants, which will help improve the efficiency of Washington's 23 short-line railroads, a critical link connecting Washington agricultural products to markets overseas.
    • $12 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to expand the passenger rail network through multi-year planning and construction grants. This could support Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) efforts to implement a new East-West Intercity Passenger Rail System, or future viable routes that could improve rail service in Eastern Washington.
    • $16 billion for Amtrak’s National Network to address the state of good repair backlog, including replacing Amtrak’s aging passenger cars used on the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight routes with safer and more comfortable cars.
    • The bill also requires the Surface Transportation Board to hire additional staff to enforce Amtrak’s preference rights to ensure freight railroads allow Amtrak trains to run on time.
  • Airports:
    • $15 billion for airport infrastructure grants, similar to traditional Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds. Airports would have the flexibility to use funds not only for projects like runways, but for broader needs like terminal and gate construction, multi-modal projects, and low-emission ground service vehicles.
      • § The bill provides a projected $384.7 million in airport infrastructure grants to Washington airports. The top Washington recipients include:
        • Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) ($228 million)
        • Spokane International (GEG) ($32 million)
        • Tri-Cities (PSC) ($16.7 million)
        • Snohomish County (Paine Field) (PAE) ($16 million)
        • Bellingham International (BLI) ($13.7 million)
        • Boeing Field/King County International (BFI) ($6.8 million)
        • Pullman/Moscow Regional (PUW) ($5.2 million)
        • Yakima Air Terminal/McAllister Field (YKM) ($5.2 million)
        • Pangborn Memorial Wenatchee (EAT) ($5.2 million)
        • Walla Walla Regional (ALW) ($5.1 million)
        • Friday Harbor (FHR) ($5 million)
        • The full list of projected recipients can be found HERE.
    • $5 billion for Terminal Development Discretionary Grants. Washington airports will be eligible to compete for this grant program. Building new airport terminals expands capacity, improves customer experience, and creates jobs.
      • For example, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s new, expanded International Arrivals Facility (IAF) is expected to support approximately 10,600 jobs.
      • $5 billion to upgrade Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control facilities. $200 million is reserved for FAA-owned contract tower
  • Transit: This funding will greatly benefit transit agencies by helping to address their maintenance backlogs, capital needs, and electrification of their fleets. For example, the funding provided to Sound Transit could help the agency keep its light rail expansion projects to Everett and Tacoma on track. $89.9 billion has been allocated in the bill to improve transit for millions of Americans.
    • $39.15 billion in new funding for public transit, including $1.79 billion for Washington.
    • $4.75 billion for state of good repair grants to support maintenance, replacement, and rehabilitation projects.
    • $8 billion for the Capital Investment Grant program, which has funded large transit projects like Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail and its extensions to Lynnwood, Federal Way, and the Eastside.
    • $5.25 billion for the Low-No Emission Grant program to provide funding for projects replacing old buses with zero-emission and low-emission buses.
  • Roads and Bridges: Washington will receive an estimated $4.7 billion in formula highway funding and $605 million for bridge replacement and repairs. There are 416 bridges and over 5,489 miles of highway in Washington rated as being in “poor” condition. There is an additional $12.5 billion for a competitive bridge repair program.
  • Electric Vehicle (EV) charging network: The transportation sector is the most significant source of emissions in Washington state. Under the IIJA, Washington is estimated to receive $71 million to expand the EV charging network.
  • Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant Program: Formerly called BUILD, this grant program supports small to mid-sized infrastructure projects that benefit local and regional economies. Though this program has been appropriated since 2009, this is the first time the program has been authorized. $7.5 billion will be allocated to this grant program.
    • Since its creation in 2009, Washington state has been awarded over $309.1 million from the program.
    • This additional funding could help support projects like Seattle's $43 million East Marginal Way Corridor Improvement Project to facilitate freight mobility to the Port of Seattle and the Pines/Barker Road project in Spokane Valley. Culverts will also be eligible for this funding for the first time.

Puget Sound and Salmon Recovery --

  • National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration Grant Program: $1 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a new program aimed to remove, replace or restore culverts, which will enable the recovery of salmon passage and habitats. This provision was authored by Senator Cantwell, and this program will be the first federal program devoted entirely to culverts.
  • Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund$172 million for NOAA’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, a grants program that provides funding to States and Tribes to protect, conserve, and restore West Coast salmon.
  • Fish Passage Barrier Removal Grants: $400 million for the creation of a new community-based restoration program focused on removing fish passage barriers
  • EPA Estuary Programs: The National Estuary Program (NEP) is a network of organizations that protects and restores 28 estuaries around the country, including the Puget Sound and Columbia River Basin.
  • NOAA Habitat Restoration Programs: Funds will be used to enable communities, Tribes, and states to respond and adapt to climate change impacts.
    • $491 million for Habitat Restoration and Community Resilience Grants
    • $492 million for the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund Grants, a funding increase of $458 million
  • Drinking Water & Wastewater Programs: These provisions of the IIJA help improve overall water quality and prevent pollution to protect salmon-supporting ecosystems. It also includes significant funding for Tribal and rural water systems and would provide funding for stormwater and wastewater systems in Washington state and Puget Sound.
    • $23.4 billion for the bipartisan Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act
    • $10 billion across multiple programs for monitoring and remediation of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals enter the environment through production or waste streams and are extremely difficult to remove. According to the EPA, PFAS chemicals are known have “adverse reproductive, developmental and immunological effects in animals and humans.”

Combatting Climate Change and Wildfires --

  • Wildfire Risk Reduction: Senator Cantwell helped secure this funding which provides $3.4 billion to both the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to support a variety of wildland fire fighting efforts, like funding for community wildfire defense grants, mechanical thinning, controlled burns, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, and firefighting resources.
  • Hazardous Fuels: Reduction of hazardous fuels generally requires the removing surface and “ladder” fuels like brush, small trees, and other vegetation that when accumulated can cause fires to burn hotter and grow faster. $1.138 billion in total funding for hazardous fuel reduction has been included in the bill.
    • $35.6 million for DOI to carry out hazardous fuels reduction projects, including $10 million for Tribal Forestry Protection Act projects
    • $102.8 million for USFS to carry out hazardous fuels reduction projects, with $40 million for Tribal Forestry Protection Act projects
    • $1 billion for USFS to carry out State and Private Forestry grants for hazardous fuels work.
  • Burned Area Rehabilitation Programs: When fires burn so hot that they destroy a landscape beyond what can be naturally tolerated, some environments become unlikely to recover without human assistance. These programs repair or improve such landscapes.  $500 million in funding for these programs has been included.
    • $225 million over 5 years for DOI to carry out burned area rehabilitation
    • $225 million over 5 years for USFS to carry out burned area rehabilitation
  • NOAA Fire Weather: This investment will support the further expansion and development of NOAA’s fire weather activities through the upgrade and replacement of data collection systems, enhanced modeling for better forecasts and hazard prediction, and improved tools that support land management agencies and emergency managers. $100 million in funding has been included for this program.
  • NOAA High Performance Computing (HPC): This funding will allow NOAA to increase computing capacity for forecasts and drought. In the next five years, NOAA will require more than 32-times the processing power than it has today, in large part to meet the increasing need for climate-related modeling (such as drought and precipitation), prediction, and forecast needs which have a direct impact on American lives and property. This will directly benefit Washington and other western states that are experiencing more extreme drought conditions, which in turn produce worsening fire seasons. $80 million in funding has been included for this program.
  • NOAA Flood Mapping, Forecasting, and Water Modeling: These funds will support NOAA’s inland flood mapping program, and provide resources to improve forecasting and flood modeling capabilities which will help with planning and the protection of lives and property. Flooding is Washington state’s most costly and reoccurring natural disaster. In general, cleanup costs following a flood are estimated to cost as much as three times more than the investment necessary to mitigate and prevent flood damage. This funding supports the programs that allow for the planning and implementation of those prevention measures by communities and states. $492 million in funding has been included for this program.

Water and Energy Infrastructure --

  • Western Water Infrastructure: The bill includes $8.3 billion to address historic droughts across the United States and restore aging water and irrigation infrastructure by funding water recycling and reuse projects; desalination projects; rural water projects; dam safety projects; drought remediation; and habitat restoration. The legislation would also boost groundwater storage and conveyance projects, including those like the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan and Odessa Groundwater Replacement Program. It also includes an amendment authored by Senator Cantwell to create a new program within the DOI to provide federal financial and technical assistance for groundwater recharge, aquifer storage and recovery, and water source substitution for aquifer protection projects.
  • Grid Infrastructure and Reliability: The legislation makes historic investments to make our nation's electricity grid more reliable, resilient, and able to integrate renewable energy sources to stand up to increasingly frequent and intense weather events. This includes $5 billion to establish a new DOE grant program to support activities that reduce the likelihood and impacts to the electric grid due to extreme weather, wildfire, and natural disaster and includes wildfires in the eligibility for the Stafford Act hazard mitigation program. Cantwell authored three significant transmission provisions that were incorporated into the final bill including:
    • $2.5 billion to establish a new Transmission Facilitation Program that will support new transmission lines or upgrade existing lines by authorizing the DOE to buy a portion of the planned capacity which it may then sell after determining the project has financial viability
    • $3 billion to restart a Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, first authored by Cantwell in 2007, that will boost private sector investment in a range of technologies needed to modernize our nation's grid.
    •  $10 billion increase in borrowing authority for BPA to assist financing of the construction, acquisition, and replacement of certain parts of the Federal Columbia River Power System
  • Energy Storage: The bill incorporates Cantwell’s Pacific Northwest Pumped Storage Hydro Development Act which will facilitate approval of the Banks Lake Pumped Storage Project. 
  • Energy Cybersecurity: Legislation tackling cybersecurity threats that Cantwell first authored in 2015 was included and funded in the package. In total, $550 million was allocated for a wide range of new programs that are included in the bill to promote energy cybersecurity, such as programs to advance the physical security and cybersecurity of electric utilities, test the cybersecurity of products and technologies, and provide technical assistance to respond to threats. The package also includes $1 billion to fund cybersecurity grants for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments.
  • Columbia River Treaty: Cantwell authored legislation that will help push for the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty and rebalance the payments sent by the Pacific Northwest to Canada.  
    • Approximately $1 billion to upgrade transmission capacity between Canada and the Western and Southern U.S., contingent on the establishment of a more equitable entitlement payment to British Columbia.
    • $100 million to create a new program to rehabilitate and enhance water storage at the John Keys pumping station at the base of the Grand Coulee Dam.
    • $10 million to determine ways to improve coordination of water and power flows between British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest which could save ratepayers tens of millions of dollars. 

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

  • MBDA: The aim of this federal agency is to promote the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses by providing access to capital, contracts and market opportunities. The infrastructure package includes Senator Cantwell’s legislation to expand the program and make it permanent. The bill authorizes $550 million to the agency, doubling its current funding. Cantwell introduced the legislation in April 2021.

The full text of IIJA is available HERE.

A section-by-section is available HERE.

Video from today’s floor speech is available HERE.

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