Urges powerful House Committee to make investments in bridges, public transit, earthquake resilience, and small and medium-sized cities
WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) took her fight for Seattle’s infrastructure needs to the powerful House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure today. Testifying at the committee’s hearing, she championed four key infrastructure priorities for Washington’s Seventh Congressional District: substantial funding for bridges, investments in public transit including light rail systems, dedicated funding for small and medium-sized cities, and earthquake resilience.
Jayapal specifically urged the Committee to invest in increased bridge funding while advocating on behalf of the West Seattle Bridge. “My first priority is generous funding for bridges, including for the BUILD Grant program,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “The need is more urgent than ever and I urge the committee to expand its support for bridges in this next package.”
Jayapal’s full remarks are below:
Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves, thank you for this opportunity to share the concerns of Washington’s seventh congressional district. As we consider how to best repair a country ravaged by a pandemic, I would like to raise four key priorities: support for bridges, small and medium-sized cities, light rail, and earthquake resilience.
My first priority is generous funding for bridges, including for the BUILD Grant program. My district is surrounded by water so bridges are critical to the health of our communities and regional economy. Look no further than the West Seattle Bridge, which was the most trafficked structure in Seattle until the city was forced to close the bridge in March 2020 after an inspection revealed cracks in the infrastructure. Seattle has since been working expeditiously to safely restore access, but the impact has been devastating for my constituents. West Seattle is accessible primarily through this bridge. The city had to detour traffic to a much smaller crossing which strained other residential neighborhoods with traffic congestion and poor air quality. Businesses have been experiencing delays in getting supplies. The Port of Seattle terminal has experienced delayed truck deliveries to shipping containers. Customers from all over the region are unwilling to fight traffic to get to businesses or frustrated at delayed food deliveries. These delays will only get worse as COVID restrictions are lifted and people begin commuting again.
And the West Seattle bridge is just one of the many bridges that needs assistance: the Seattle Department of Transportation recently analyzed 77 vehicle bridges and found that in 2019, 65 percent were only in fair condition, and 6 percent were in poor condition—a truly untenable situation. I am grateful that the House passed H.R. 2 last year with a drastic increase in funding. But given its stalling in the Republican Senate last session, the need is more urgent than ever and I urge the committee to expand its support for bridges in this next package.
Additionally, there is an urgent need for dedicated funding for medium-sized cities. The need for infrastructure improvements for roads and bridges is necessary regardless of the size of the city; yet small and medium cities face a greater challenge in accessing funding needed for critical repairs and projects. They must compete against large cities for funds, but do not have the same resources as their larger counterparts. These smaller cities need a better shot at accessing funding so they can attract economic activity and address safety and quality of life for their residents. As we lead economic recovery, let’s provide robust and dedicated support to these small and medium-sized cities to ensure reliable infrastructure.
Third, I urge the committee to continue expanding its support for light rail projects. In my district, Sound Transit will triple our light rail system, an ambitious expansion. Further, our light rail system now runs on 100 percent carbon-free electricity, a first for major light rail systems in the country, through an innovative agreement with Puget Sound Energy to purchase wind energy directly from the utility’s Green Direct program. This is projected to save more than $390,000 in electricity costs over the 10-year contract while also supporting new local clean energy jobs. In our state, transportation is responsible for 40 percent of greenhouse gases and transit is the linchpin of regional sustainability. Our country and our region needs federal assistance on important projects like this that reduce congestion, support our economy, and address climate change.
Finally, I want to briefly note my strong support for federal assistance for earthquake resilience and risk reduction projects. The Pacific Northwest is highly prone to earthquakes and Washington will continue to experience damaging, deadly, and expensive quakes. In fact, a FEMA spokesperson put it bluntly: the entire northwest coast will be toast. Mr. Chairman, I know these are issues that you understand well and I urge the Committee to continue providing robust funding for states to prepare.
As Congress enacts reforms to support a full economic recovery, I look forward to working with you to ensure substantial funding for bridges, dedicated funding for medium-sized cities, prioritizing earthquake resilience, and our light rail systems. Thank you.