FILE — Portland Tolling

Downtown Portland, Oregon, is visible under the Interstate-5 Marquam Bridge on the Willamette River.

(The Center Square) — Joe Biden's presidency may mean many things for the Pacific Northwest, but chief among them could be finding money for its ailing transportation projects.

Last year, Washington's infrastructure earned a C grade from the American Civil Society of Civil Engineers. 

According to a 2019 Association of Washington Businesses report, Washington's infrastructure repairs carry a price tag of about $222 billion and would require about 777,000 workers. 

The situation is dire for much of Seattle where the West Seattle Bridge's cracked high-rise section is facing costly options for repair or replacement. 

Ethan Bergerson, media and public affairs lead for the Seattle Department of Transportation, said the agency is "looking into every possible option to pay for repairing or replacing the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge."

"Some of the possible funding options we have been looking into include state and federal grants and federal loans," Bergerson said. "We began having conversations with federal agencies and elected officials as soon as the bridge was closed in March, and look forward to continuing these conversations with the new Biden administration."

Chris Evans, a spokesperson with U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said the Puget Sound leader is standing by to assist Seattle leaders should they decide to apply for federal aid for the West Seattle Bridge.

Jayapal has been a vocal supporter of $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last year. 

It included $28 billion for crossings like the West Seattle Bridge and more than $494 billion for highways, public transit agencies, and rail lines.

Washington could expect to receive as much as $4.89 billion in federal highway funds, $2.03 billion in federal transit funds, and $800 million for bridge repairs.

"Congresswoman Jayapal also looks forward to working with the Biden administration on ensuring this robust investment in infrastructure is signed into law," Evans said.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, R-Wash., of Southwest Washington could not be reached for comment.

Replacing the Interstate-5 Bridge has been another concern for Washington and Oregon commuters crossing the Columbia River.

The bridge makes up the only continuous interstate highway on the West Coast between Mexico and Canada. Its twin-spans opened in 1917 and 1958.

It is estimated to cost Oregon and Washington's Departments of Transportation around $1.2 million each year to operate and maintain. Keeping the bridge in service is expected to cost over $280 million through 2040.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a two-page memorandum of intent in 2019 renewing their respective states' decades-long attempts to replace crossing.

Washington and Oregon also set aside a combined $50 million in September to jumpstart replacement work.

The prospects of such plans succeeding are more uncertain in light of Washington and Oregon's respective $4.5 billion and $1 billion budget deficits.

Among the memorandum's commitments is the creation of a joint project office between the states to reevaluate the technical scope, timeline, and cost of replacing the aging bridge.

“We know it is mandatory we replace this bridge,” Inslee told The Columbian. “We do not have an option. This bridge has to be replaced.”

A final draft of the project office's report is slated for December 1, 2020.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.