U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Arlington, visited Whidbey Island Dec. 20 to discuss how President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill could benefit the island.
The bipartisan act, which was signed into law last month, will provide millions of dollars for public amenities such as ferries, broadband internet, public transit and bridges in Washington state.
“It is a wide-ranging bill that provides many opportunities for jurisdictions in Island County to improve the quality of life of the people who live here,” Larsen said.
The bill, Larsen explained, does not earmark funds for specific projects; rather, it puts money into funding sources which municipalities and localities can then apply for through grants.
Washington state itself will also receive funds for various areas of infrastructure improvement, including $5.8 billion over the next five years for roads, bridges and highways; $1.79 billion to support transit agencies throughout the state; and at least $100 million for broadband expansion.
During his visit Dec. 20, Larsen met with local stakeholders across the island to discuss how the infrastructure bill could impact Whidbey and projects they would like to complete in the future.
The congressman began the day on the South End, meeting with Port of South Whidbey Executive Director Stan Reeves and port commissioners Jack Ng and Curt Gordon to discuss a passenger-only ferry project the port has been working on.
Reeves said a small dock adjacent to the Clinton ferry terminal served as “a landing for passenger-only vessels in the event of interruption of vehicle ferry service, with a secondary purpose of recreational use” for more than 30 years, until the floats were damaged by a storm in 2018. The port has been looking for funding to replace the floats since then.
“Rep. Larsen is trying to help us secure funding (approximately $1.5 million) to rebuild the Clinton Dock (adjacent to the WSF Clinton Terminal) to accommodate passenger-only ferry operations,” Reeves wrote in an email.
Larsen also met with Whidbey Telecom CEO George Henny to discuss efforts to expand the island’s broadband network; toured Island Transit’s facilities; and finished the day at Deception Pass State Park, where Washington State Department of Transportation officials showed him recently completed renovations and discussed an upcoming soil remediation project funded by the previous federal infrastructure bill.