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Congressional Stalemate May Cause Construction Delays for W.Va. Roads

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Ashton Marra
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sat at a table with Senator Rockefeller, Congressman Nick Rahall and West Virginia DOT Secretary Paul Mattox in the main hall of the state Culture Center in Charleston.

He came to West Virginia to talk about infrastructure and the funding it will take to fix an aging system not just in West Virginia, but across the country. That funding, though, as Foxx said, is stuck in Washington.

“The Highway Trust Fund, which is the source that we as a nation use to pay for road, bridge and highway systems across the country, is on the brink of insolvency,” he said.

The bill Foxx is referring to, the federal Highway Trust Fund, will expire August 1.

Without it, Secretary Mattox says West Virginia will have to delay or cancel more than 200 construction projects. That amounts to about $240 million in highway construction.

Foxx has worked with some members to create a long term fix, what he’s calling the Grow America Act. The legislation provides funding for infrastructure for the next four years by utilizing the current gas tax, but also raises additional funds in new ways.

His bill calls for federal business tax reform, taxing corporations for overseas profits then utilizing those funds for infrastructure development at home.

 “I think to be realistic, it’s going to be another one year patch,” Rockefeller said of Foxx’s proposed long-term solution.
 

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Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and Sen. Jay Rockefeller talk infrastructure issues during a press conference Monday.

“I’m on the Finance Committee and we’ve been meeting constantly to try to figure out a long term funding proposal, but when it comes to signing their name on the commitment to raising the funds, the enthusiasm decreases because of the climate and the fear in Washington today.”

“Congress is going to act,” Congressman Rahall said, more optimistic than Rockefeller.

“While it may be a temporary extension, what is important to keep in mind is we’re not going to allow interruptions of funds to the states that will slow down or kill construction projects.”

All four men stressed the importance of federal funds to improve West Virginia’s system.

Mattox said he’s in talks with the governor about a possible special legislative session later in the year devoted to infrastructure issues. He said, though, that session can’t happen until the federal government finalizes its plans for funding.
 


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