The Federal Highway Trust Fund is broke and funding is limited at both the federal and state level. How we do move forward in the future to ensure we can build and maintain new roads and bridges and maintain the ones we already have?
“We are operating under temporary extension of the Federal Aid to Transportation bill because we didn’t pass the six-year bill a year ago. The temporary extension expires at the end of this calendar year. We’ll have to take action in a lame duck. The president has proposed $50 billion for infrastructure, transportation needs. It’s just a drop in the bucket of what’s really needed.
“How do we pay for (roads and bridges)? The Highway Trust Fund is broke because we’ve been preaching conservation and alternative means of transportation. It’s a darned if you do, darned if you don’t scenario. Less revenue is coming into the Highway Trust Fund. I have said before ... I think all options should be on the table. There’s already tolling that is going to be in place on Route 35, not in my district, that’s one avenue that has to be on the table. We have to look at public/private partnerships. We have to look at perhaps more bonding allowed to build our roads. We just have to look at all of these avenues to pursue.
“In the past the Legislature has taken the courageous move of raising the state tax. That helped us leverage more federal dollars, especially when Sen. Byrd was chairman of the Appropriations Committee. His loss is a tremendous blow to our state, 58 years of seniority there. When we do this new bill, I’m going to make sure, as I have in the past and Sen. Byrd has done in the past, that West Virginia, because it is so expensive to build a mile of highway here versus a flat state like Florida or out west — $24, $25 million dollars per mile versus a million in another state. I’m going to make sure West Virginia gets its fair share. I’m going to use the earmarking process. I don’t shy away from that word at all. I’ve gotten earmarks for the Coalfields Expressway, King Coal Highway, Shawnee Parkway, I’ve gotten earmarks for water and sewer systems across the southern part of the state. As long as those earmarks are transparent, open and no single individual personally profits, and as long as they have local support as they do, grassroots support, I’m going to fight for earmarks. I’m also going to ensure West Virginia gets its fair share.”