U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer told more than 50 people during a Port Angeles Business Association Meeting on Tuesday he’ll focus on bipartisan issues in the coming year, such as an anticipated infrastructure push as the new administration takes office in January. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer told more than 50 people during a Port Angeles Business Association Meeting on Tuesday he’ll focus on bipartisan issues in the coming year, such as an anticipated infrastructure push as the new administration takes office in January. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Kilmer looks at road ahead for Elwha River bridge, water infrastructure

PORT ANGELES — U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer expects an infrastructure push from the federal government as President-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration takes control of the White House in January.

“What we’re hearing from the new administration is there may be a big push for a big infrastructure package,” the Gig Harbor Democrat told more than 50 people who attended the Port Angeles Business Association meeting Tuesday morning.

“Historically those issues about infrastructure have been bipartisan.”

On Inauguration Day — Jan. 20 — Republicans will control the White House and have majorities in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

Infrastructure in Washington state and across the country needs an overhaul, said the representative of the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.

He pointed to the 90-year-old Elwha River bridge on U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles as an example.

The state Department of Transportation plans to address the bridge as soon as possible. Officials have discovered it was built on gravel instead of bedrock and the Elwha River is eating away at that riverbed.

Sediment from the former Lake Aldwell and Lake Mills reservoirs after dam removal and high water have scoured the riverbed around the piers.

Old cracks were discovered in the bridge, which is safe for travel but is being monitored with tilt meters, Transportation officials have said.

The state has proposed seven options for the crossing, including some that would create alternative routes.

“Last week, I met with the state Department of Transportation and talked to them about options at the federal level,” Kilmer said. “There is thankfully an increasing appreciation that an alternate route is not an option.”

He also pointed to Interstate 5, joking that speed limit signs in Seattle and Tacoma appear to only be for nostalgic purposes.

He urged local leaders to make sure local projects are “front and center” with the state.

The Port Angeles native also plans to push for more federal support in water infrastructure, calling on the federal government to proactively invest tax dollars, rather than react after a disaster.

“The federal government should be a better partner to cities like Port Angeles when they are trying to do the right thing,” he said, referring to the city’s $47 million Combined Sewer Overflow Project.

“That shouldn’t all fall on the shoulders of the local taxpayer.”

When asked about what he would to help people who risk losing health insurance under Trump’s administration, which has promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Kilmer said there some aspects of the ACA he likes and others that need fixing.

Kilmer said he wants to keep provisions that say people can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 and that people can’t be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Trump has said he favors keeping those provisions.

But action needs to be taken to help small businesses that want to provide coverage to employees but can’t afford to, Kilmer said.

If the ACA is repealed, Kilmer said he doesn’t know what health insurance would look like in the United States.

“You have some people who suggest repeal and replace,” he said. “I’ve gotten to vote on repeal 32 times and I haven’t seen what replace looks like.”

Kilmer also tackled education, saying students should be allowed to use Pell Grants even in the summer.

“One of the stupid changes Congress made a few years back is it said you can’t use Pell Grants year-round,” he said. “That makes no sense.”

He said people make it partway through programs, but drop out once they get to summer and lose funding.

“There is bipartisan agreement that’s dumb,” he said.

Throughout his talk, Kilmer said the country is getting more polarized and that lawmakers need to focus on bipartisan work.

“We need to focus on progress, not partisanship,” he said. “It’s a problem as success gets defined as not compromising.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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