Each week, Congressman Adam Smith will answer your questions in Tacoma Weekly. To submit questions and read past responses, visit Tacoma Weekly online. Here is the first question submitted by a reader for that ongoing effort:
Question: Pierce County faces some high-budget infrastructure work with floods and roads, what sort of federal assistance should we expect for them or from the state level for the crumbling infrastructure?
Smith: Transportation and water infrastructure projects are funded by the federal government through a combination of multi-year programmatic funding, annual appropriations by Congress, and through grants that provide supplemental funds to specific water and transportation initiatives.
Historically, Congress enacts legislation that appropriates gas tax revenue for highway and transit projects over several years. Funding for water projects has also traditionally been provided each year and in amounts necessary to maintain the nation's municipal water, flood control, inland navigation, and other water-related priorities.
Unfortunately, deep disagreements about how much funding should be provided to transportation and how to raise sufficient revenues to keep our nation's infrastructure in good repair have prevented consistent passage of long-term transportation legislation. Also, despite an ever-growing list of backlogged water projects in need of federal assistance, the annual funding provided for these priorities has not kept pace with needs.
Gas tax revenues that have not been adjusted for inflation or to account for changes in driving behavior that no longer generate the revenue necessary to maintain and improve our highways and transit systems. The systemic budget dilemma facing all areas of the federal budget where we don't collect enough revenue to cover our expenditures also makes costly but vitally important water projects difficult to afford. However, I will continue working with my colleagues to reform our federal transportation and water infrastructure efforts and to ensure that in the future, we adequately prioritize and fund vital infrastructure projects that support economic growth in our nation and the South Sound region.
Despite our infrastructure funding challenges, there are opportunities for our community to seek federal assistance for local projects. In 2011, Washington was awarded more than $30 million in Federal grants through collaborative efforts between the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), locally impacted cities and counties, and Washington's Congressional delegation. Traditionally, the state has been successful at making a strong case for local projects and securing federal support, and I remain committed to working with WSDOT, leaders in our community, and members of our state's Congressional delegation to secure federal assistance for projects that help address our local transportation and infrastructure needs.