CHARLESTON, W.Va. – There’s a movement in Washington that could impact road construction projects right here in West Virginia. Some Republicans are pushing for reducing funding to the National Highway Trust Fund.
The West Virginia Transportation & Infrastructure Summit held in Charleston on Monday hosted speakers voicing their concerns about funding cuts, including U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and Third District Congressman Nick Rahall.
“We can not devolve all of our transportation back to the states as some members of the U.S. Congress would have us do,” stressed Rahall. “We did not build our interstate system that way. If we had a system of that nature, we’d have a system going right up to the state line and then falling off a cliff!”
Another speaker at the event, Pete Ruane with the American Road and Transportation Builders Associaton said the Trust Fund, as it stands right now, is critical to the economy.
“It generates on the order of $300 billion in economic benefits. It employs at least 3 million people. Without the federal government, particularly the U.S. Congress, renewing the trust fund in the next two weeks then there could be on the order of 700,000 jobs lost in the next 6 months,” stressed Ruane.
According to Ruane, states rely on anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of their highway funding coming from the federal government’s trust fund.
“In West Virginia, in fact, 61 percent of its capital program is dependent on federal financing. That’s what makes it so important,” stressed Ruane. “Seven states have said they will stop programs all together. In West Virginia, I think they’re going to stop some projects and only reimburse maybe 50-cents on the dollar for those projects that do continue.”
Rahall is taking a positive approach to the deadline saying, “Cooler heads will prevail.” He said both parties know just how important the highway funding is to the economy and cutting that would be devastating. But he also stressed, it’s not just about financing projects, to spend money.
“We need to step up and realize that infrastructure funding isn’t just another spending program. It’s an investment in our collective future,” according to Rahall.
The full House will vote on extending the National Highway Trust Fund this week. Rahall said it has broad bipartisan support. The Senate is also expected to take a vote before next week’s deadline.