WASHINGTON, D.C. – As House and Senate negotiators go to conference to work out a long-term transportation bill, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is urging the committee to include provisions in the final bill that are important for West Virginia.
“West Virginia has 38,000 miles of public roads, many of which are in poor condition and in need of repair,”Senator Manchin said. “We are in serious need of a federal, long-term funding bill that goes beyond the status quo to address our state’s and nation’s infrastructure needs. Projects like the King Coal Highway, Coalfields Expressway and Corridor H have been put on hold for too long. The time is now to truly invest in these projects and others that will improve our infrastructure, create jobs, boost economic development and improve conditions in our local communities. My hope is that the conference committee will take these requests into serious consideration as they hash out a final bill.”
In a letter to the House and Senate conferees, Senator Manchin is requesting that the following be included in the final highway bill:
- Higher funding for critical West Virginia highway projects, such as King Coal Highway, Coalfields Expressway and Corridor H – Senator Manchin says that as currently written, the proposed House investment levels would fail to keep pace with projected inflation and would fail to get these roads built.
- $60 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) over the next six years to support regional projects and activities – Senator Manchin says that we must close the digital divide to give our businesses and families an opportunity to compete in the global marketplace.
- Rail safety provisions that require Electronically-Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes on all train tank cars – Senator Manchin says this will prevent pile-ups like the one that occurred in the Mount Carbon train derailment earlier this year in Fayette Count, West Virginia. He would also like to see a provision included that gives first-responders the tools they need to protect the communities they serve.
In a separate letter, Senator Manchin is urging negotiators to shorten the authorization period for the bill in order to maximize annual investment levels for all surface transportation programs. To read that letter, please click here.
To read the letter, please see below or click here.
As you work together to craft a bipartisan compromise between the two highway bills that have passed the House and the Senate, I urge you to carefully consider the impacts the policy decisions you make today will have on West Virginia and the greater Appalachian Region for years to come. Please consider these priorities in crafting your final package.
It is no secret that the energy and environmental policies being promoting by this administration have hit coal country particularly hard. The Senate bill includes an innovative high-speed broadband deployment initiative that would allocate $60 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission over the next six years to support regional projects and activities that will help make us more competitive in a global marketplace. The digital divide places rural Americans at a major disadvantage in an increasingly interconnected world, and we need targeted investments like the broadband deployment initiative to give our businesses and families a fighting chance.
As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, I fought hard for critical rail safety provisions that were included in the Senate-passed bill. In May of this year, nine years after the Federal Railroad Administration first recommended Electronically-Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes, the agency finalized a rule to require them on all tank cars in an effort to prevent pile-ups like the one we saw in Fayette County, West Virginia earlier this year. I encourage you to include a rail safety title in this bill to give our first responders the tools they need to protect the communities they serve.
High Priority Corridors
While I am pleased that both bills recognize the importance of our nation’s high priority corridors, such as the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway in West Virginia, recognition alone will not get these roads built. It costs money to build and maintain our nation’s interstate highway system, and I believe it is imperative that the projects and promises included in this bill are fully funded. We should not write a check that we cannot cash.
Thank you for this opportunity to highlight my top priorities in this bill. I appreciate your commitment to reconciling these two bills and producing a bipartisan package that will put people to work building and maintaining our nation’s infrastructure.