Spokane Journal of Business

Guest Commentary: Washington’s infrastructure is due for major investment

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Now is the time to invest in infrastructure.

Strong economies and livable communities are built on sound roads, bridges and highways, ports that move our goods efficiently to markets throughout the world, and access to safe water and reliable broadband internet in every corner of the state.

A new report outlines more than $222 billion in needed infrastructure spending throughout the state.

The report, “Building the Economy: Infrastructure Needs in Washington,” which was commissioned by the Association of Washington Business, Association of Washington Cities, Washington State Association of Counties, and the Washington Public Ports Association highlights just how much work needs to be done.

The findings update a 2017 report from the same coalition and reaffirm both the need to invest in Washington’s core infrastructure and the benefits that will come as a result.

The list of needs is substantial: $147 billion for highways and roads, $16 billion for fish and habitat projects, and nearly $5 billion to make our energy grid safer, more efficient and secure. Rail, aviation, water, communications and other priorities complete the list. 

But the opportunities are also great. Making the needed investments will create at least 706,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the report.

The report cites existing data on needs and illustrative projects from throughout the state to highlight investment opportunities in critical areas, such as Spokane International Airport expansion; the Odessa Aquifer, in Adams County; the Lake Cushman Broadband Project, in Mason County; U.S. 2 trestle construction in Snohomish County; barge facility improvements in Clallam County; replacing the Interstate 5 bridge in Vancouver and fish passage restoration throughout the state.

Rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure begins at the federal level, but the unprecedented partnership between the four associations demonstrates that Washington state has laid the groundwork to act quickly and make smart use of resources when the opportunity arises.

When the federal government acts, Washington is ready to build --building off our prior investments.

There’s reason to be optimistic. There appears to be agreement across party lines in Congress about the importance of infrastructure funding. There’s strong public support, as well. A Gallup poll from last year shows Americans broadly support spending more public dollars on infrastructure.

This investment will pay for itself. Washington contributes more than $300 billion to the U.S. economy each year, and our ports move more than $70 billion in goods, which ranks No. 4 in the country. And every dollar invested in infrastructure yields a $1.50 ripple effect that flows through the community.

There’s no time like today to get started. An estimated 2 million additional people are expected to call Washington home by 2040. These new neighbors will rely on a strong economy to provide good jobs, clean water, good roads, and a reliable energy grid.

And everyone who currently lives here will benefit as well.

Failure to make these essential investments threatens economic growth. Making them creates jobs, increases public health, sustains Washington’s trade-driven economy, and protects our quality of life.

 

Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association.

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