Kilmer hopes for federal funds for Highway 112 slides

Congressman discusses federal infrastructure bill

FORKS — U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer said he is hopeful that Gov. Jay Islee’s disaster declaration will lead in federal help to fix the landslides on state Highway 112.

Kilmer, who represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula, told Forks Chamber of Commerce members on Wednesday that the governor’s declaration included a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for money for repairs on sections of 112 that suffered following a landslide in a Nov. 14 storm.

The state Department of Transportation has said it expects to repair the areas at mileposts 15.8 near Clallam Bay and 32 near Jim Creek — which include a massive slide 325 feet high and 275 feet wide — in March.

“Hopefully we will see some federal funding available soon,” Kilmer said Wednesday.

He also said that issue should be considered “from two lenses.”

“One is the support from FEMA, which our state has generally had success on that front, and we are actively working with the governor to secure that assistance from FEMA.

“The other thing we need to think about, though, is this is not the first time we have had problems on that stretch of road, and it’s not the only road where we face resilience challenges. The reality is, we are seeing more storm damage or coastal erosion throughout the Peninsula,” Kilmer said.

Kilmer segued into discussing the recently passed $65 billion federal infrastructure bill.

“Obviously a big part of that infrastructure bill was for roads and bridges,” Kilmer said.

In December, he visited the site of one of the landslides on Highway 112. There, he said, he spoke to DOT and Clallam County Public Works officials about the potential for emergency federal funding to help support the repair work as well as the parts of the infrastructure bill that could help build resiliency into those roads that are often damaged during large weather events.

He said he see federal dollars “focused on resiliency, road improvements and bridges,” brought to fund local needs “so that the cost isn’t borne by local communities and taxpayers.

“I think it’s a really big deal for the federal government to step up,” Kilmer said.

Kilmer said the funding would come through the federal Department of Transportation as the lead agency.

The first round will be the RAISE grants — Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity — which offers maximum awards of $25 million. Local communities can make direct application for those, Kilmer said.

“They’re also going to be pushing out the INFRA grants — Infrastructure for Rebuilding America — and that’s for everything from road and rail projects to other types if infrastructure where there is an economic significance.

“Some of those are larger grants, up to $50 million. Those are the ones that we have heard will be the first couple programs to roll out, probably in the coming months,” Kilmer said.

Kilmer said that, on top of those grants, some $5 billion (disbursed over the course of five years) is to be rolled out to individual states.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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