3:06pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

Bridge & Road Money

There is money for roads.  And, for the first time in years, that money will not come in the form of short term extensions.

On Friday, both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives approved the proposed federal transportation bill that will pay for bridge and road projects, in West Virginia and across the United States, during the next two years.

"This is a major victory for West Virginia, a major victory for everybody.  We worked together, across the aisle and that’s what people want us to do," said Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito.

She was part of the conference committee that put together the legislation that comes on a deadline.

The current transportation bill was set to run out on Saturday, while higher interest rates on new student loans would have kicked in, without action, on Sunday.

"We’re going to have certainty on affording our highways, more flexibility, environmental streamlining.  It also has the student loan bill on there which will keep interest rates from rising," the Congresswoman said.

Additionally, the legislation will financially shore up the federal flood insurance program.

During the lengthy negotiations, Republicans dropped their push for approval of the proposed Keystone Oil pipeline, while Democrats agreed to limit money for pedestrian improvements so more money could go to roads.

"We worked very hard, but had to give up some things.  The coal ash provision is not in there, unfortunately," Congresswoman Capito said.

That coal ash provision would have cleared the way for the continued use of coal ash as a cement additive for road work.  Officials with the federal Environmental Protection Agency are considering classifying the byproduct as a hazardous material.

With the transportation bill, West Virginia will receive $423 million for Fiscal Year 2012 and Fiscal Year 2013.  That amount will go up to almost $427 million in Fiscal Year 2014.

"While no major bill is perfect, I’m thrilled this agreement will keep funding levels for West Virginia highways secure and strong for the next two years," U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller said in a statement.

"This agreement helps West Virginia plan for the future of its highways while creating and preserving jobs."

The bill makes completion of the Appalachian Development Highway System, including Corridor H, a priority.  It also addresses safety on the roads in a number of ways.

"Investing in infrastructure isn’t a Democratic idea or a Republican idea," said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.

"While this measure is not perfect, I am pleased that my colleagues were able to work across party lines to reach an agreement."

Since 2009, members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House have not been able to agree on a highway funding bill.  Instead, they’ve relied on short term extensions.

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