Capito says King Coal Highway, Coalfields Expressway are priorities for the state

AP PhotoSen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., one of the key Senate Republicans shepherding a $1 trillion infrastructure bill with Democrats, arrives at the chamber as the Senate works to advance the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The 2,700-page bill includes new expenditures on roads, bridges, water pipes broadband and other projects, plus cyber security. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The amount of money that will be available for work on King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway has not yet been determined, but Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said both are priorities for the state.

Capito said during a virtual press conference Thursday $3.5 billion is included in the infrastructure bill for state highways, spread out over five years, and she knows both projects are touted by Gov. Jim Justice.

“Those big projects are in his priority plan,” she said, adding that the state already has a 10-year plan, a “pretty good road map” of where those priorities are.

“The state will have flexibility on how to administer the dollars,” she said, referring to “formula” spending priorities where 90 percent of that money will go.

Questions related to exactly how much will go to particular projects will be decided by the state.

But that $3.5 billion is not all that will be available for highway projects in West Virginia.

Besides the formula dollars, grant funding will be available for high-priority projects, and that is where she is involved on a federal level to help the state obtain more money for those priorities.

Capito said she works with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and money besides the $3.5 billion may be available, with 80 percent from the federal government and a 20 percent state match.

Those funds can be directed toward high-priority rural projects.

Capito said the infrastructure bill should be passed by the Senate by next week and she remains optimistic it will get through the legislative process.

“We are going to get it done,” she said. “I think we have great bipartisan support. We’ve had 22 amendments that have been offered. Everybody’s getting a chance to make some tweaks and some differences that they’ve been working on. I’m very encouraged by this.”

Capito was the Republican leader on the floor to help move the amendments forward.

When the bill passes the Senate as anticipated and goes to the House, speculation has abounded about how Speaker Nancy Pelosi will handle its passage since she has in the past tied it to the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” plan Democrats are pushing and Republicans are opposed to.

“The House is wild,” Capito said, referring to her previous tenure there. “We don’t know what the House is going to do.”

But Capito said President Joe Biden may be of help and will “assert pressure” to get the infrastructure bill to the finish line.

“He is committed to passing bipartisan legislation,” she said.

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