The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 14, 2008

Byrd steers funding toward W.Va. roadways

Mannix Porterfield

Flexing his muscle as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Robert C. Byrd steered $41.5 million Monday toward critical road projects in his home state of West Virginia, among them King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway.

While $4-plus-a-gallon gas is threatening to deny highway taxes, West Virginia officials repeatedly have vowed to put up the state’s 20 percent match on all federal projects in which Washington is paying the lion’s share.

Although gas has risen sharply since last summer, so far, the driving habits of West Virginians have appeared to have changed little, based on the revenues collected by the Department of Transportation.

DOT Secretary Paul Mattox pointed out only last Friday that revenues ran only $1.6 million below estimates of the Manchin administration for the just-ended fiscal year.

Byrd said his panel also added another $4.5 million for the support of airports across West Virginia.

In the committee-approved bill, the Coalfields Expressway, running through Raleigh, Wyoming and McDowell counties, and King Coal Highway in Mercer County would get like amounts of $5 million.

Byrd also set aside $10 million for Corridor H in the eastern portion of the state, $7 million for W.Va. 9 in the Eastern Panhandle, $5 million apiece to perform slide repair work along U.S. 60 in eastern Kanawha County and for W.Va. 10 in Logan County, $2 million for the Kanawha Trestle Rails-to-Trails project in Charleston, $1.5 million for improvements to Potomac Street in Harpers Ferry, and $1 million for roadway development and supporting infrastructure at the Elkins railyard projects.

Now that work has been completed on all other corridors, Byrd said the state could focus on Corridor H with the additional funding.

“There is much work to be done,” the Democratic senator said. “Corridor H is a critically important undertaking for West Virginia, and I am committed to seeing it through.”

Byrd said the additional road money would create new jobs, relieve congestion and provide the motoring public with a safer ride.

“Unfortunately, the president has not made a priority of roadways and infrastructure needs here at home,” the senator added.

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