Capito urges Buttigieg to approve new I-79 exit

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito took advantage of an opportunity Thursday when U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appeared before a Senate committee. Capito urged Buttigieg to approve plans for a new exit on Interstate 79 at Harmony Grove near Morgantown.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

“I didn’t want to leave this opportunity unchecked,” Capito told Buttigieg. “Safety is your priority and this is a safety issue because of a business park which is growing. It would take a lot of truck traffic out of those local areas.”

Earlier Thursday on WAJR Radio’s “Talk of the Town,” Capito talked about the importance of the interchange that will provide a direct path to the Morgantown Industrial Park.

Recently the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization moved the Harmony Grove interchange up their priority list because of increasing activity at the park.

Capito along with fellow U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and Rep. David McKinley sent a letter to Buttigieg this week requesting swift approval of the Interchange Justification Report to expedite the project.

The interchange will be a vital part of Mountaintop Beverage. The company is expected to operate up to 100 semi-trucks daily from the Morgantown Industrial Park. Additionally, reports indicate when the project is officially announced other expansion announcements are expected when project bids are awarded to a contractor.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

“In order to ensure West Virginia’s continued economic growth and job creation, we must regularly upgrade and improve infrastructure across the state. Last year, I was proud to help secure funding for a waterline extension through the Economic Development Administration to spur new investment at the Morgantown Industrial Park. With increased traffic and investment at the site, the proposed Harmony Grove Interchange is great news for Morgantown and the region, and will bolster transportation and economic activity across the entire state. I will continue working with Secretary Buttigieg to expedite the review process and bring these crucial changes to the Harmony Grove Interchange,” Manchin said in the letter.

McKinley said it’s about economic growth.

“The Harmony Grove Interchange is one example of how West Virginia can move forward and support new and expanding businesses and strengthen future economic development,” Mckinley said. This project will benefit the Morgantown Industrial Park, connect West Virginia to the rest of the country, and bring good jobs and opportunities to the region.”

U.S. Rep. David McKinley

Lawmakers also noted the importance of reducing congestion by adding more places to get on and off the interstate.

“We know Morgantown and the North Central West Virginia is a growing area, we need to grow smart and to grown smart we need access points,” Capito said. “We are going to prevail upon the secretary to help us with this.”

Border issues

Also during Thursday’s appearance on WAJR, Capito expressed frustration over the approach to the southern border taken by the Biden administration. She believes cracking down on illegal crossings will also help stop the flow of drugs.

“More drugs coming through that border, and we know that’s where fentanyl is coming from, means more death and more destruction in our state,” Capito said. “Part of that can be attributed to that glut of people coming over.”

The saturation of illegal immigrants at the border creates a diversion for drug cartels to act with impunity. In some cases, illegal immigrants are forced to act as “mules” to move drugs in exchange to get across the border.

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