Cantwell Questions Deputy Transportation Secretary Nominee on WA Transportation Priorities, Increased Funding for Sound Transit

Sound Transit faces $1 billion revenue loss this year and $11.5 billion budget shortfall - Cantwell highlights WA transportation needs in hearing for nominee for number two job at DOT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing to consider the nomination of Polly Trottenberg to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the committee, highlighted the dire financial straits of state and local transportation agencies including Sound Transit. She questioned Trottenberg about the need to increase funding for transportation agencies, address freight bottlenecks, and invest in infrastructure, including at-grade crossings.

Cantwell spoke about the many transportation needs across Washington state and the funding shortfalls faced by state and local transit agencies: “In the State of Washington, we are facing a $1.14 billion in transportation revenue loss over the next 10 years as a result of the COVID pandemic.”

She specifically addressed concerns that important projects such as Sound Transit’s extension to Everett and Tacoma could be delayed, as well as the urgent need for funding for highway projects including the West Seattle Bridge: “Sound Transit is in the midst of one of its biggest expansions in the nation really, and it faces a billion dollar shortfall in budget, also impacted by COVID and the loss of local investment that taxpayers would have normally been putting into the system. And due to the pandemic, we see the challenges that it will face and really completing this project at has been imagined. There's also many freight projects in the Northwest and places like the West Seattle Bridge, which suffering from critical cracks in the concrete infrastructures made it unsafe to make our ports as cost effective as they could be in delivering freight,” Cantwell said.

Calling out Sound Transit specifically, Cantwell went on to ask Trottenberg: “Do you believe we need to provide additional transit agencies nationwide with revenues to help deal with the shortfall from the pandemic? What do you think we can do to help give tools to these agencies so they continue their important work and make sure these projects are completed?”

“We will probably need to continue to work together on that,” Trottenberg said, “We don't want to see important capital projects derailed for all these systems all over the country… I know the department has a role to play in making sure we help to keep these projects moving to be as efficient and streamlined as we can so we don't lose ground.”

Cantwell also asked Trottenberg if she supported increasing the freight infrastructure program to address multimodal bottlenecks such as the West Seattle bridge replacement, the I-5 Columbia River bridge replacement, and the Apple Capital Loop in Wenatchee. “I certainly do,” Trottenberg replied.

Cantwell concluded by asking Trottenberg about the need to make sure that the environmental impacts of infrastructure investments, particularly on salmon populations, are considered. “You have my commitment to do so,” Trottenberg said.

American Society of Civil Engineers, in a new report released this morning, estimated that without a $5.6 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next two decades the U.S. economy could lose $10.3 trillion in GDP. “So we have the COVID story of lost revenue, and we have [an] assessment by our civil engineers saying we need much more investment in transportation infrastructure. So facing this economic outlook it's critical that we have someone with Ms. Trottenberg’s leadership and expertise to help us in the transportation sector,” Cantwell said.

Polly Trottenberg has over thirty years of transportation experience—at the hearing, Cantwell called her “eminently qualified” for the role. She served most recently as the New York City Transportation Commissioner, and prior to that at the Department of Transportation under President Obama, first as Assistant Secretary for Policy and then as Under Secretary for Policy, the third ranking official at the department.

Video from Senator Cantwell’s opening statement at the hearing is available HERE and audio is HERE.

Video from Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with Trottenberg at the hearing is available HERE and audio is HERE.

Transcripts of both are available HERE.