Across the Mountain State, we are in desperate need of infrastructure investments. More than 3,200 miles of highway and 1,545 bridges are in poor condition. At least 258,000 West Virginians have no broadband access. Thirty-two percent of trains and transit vehicles are beyond their useful lives.
We rely on these poor roads and bridges to take us to and from home, work and school. The lack of reliable and affordable broadband access makes it difficult for our students to complete their homework, our fellow West Virginians to start new businesses and our seniors to attend telehealth appointments. For nearly a year, we fought tooth and nail to secure funding to alleviate these infrastructure needs. And after months of robust, bipartisan negotiations, we are proud to announce that West Virginia is set to receive nearly $6 billion to repair our roads and bridges, build out broadband and so much more, with additional funds possible through federal competitive grant programs. At a time when political division seems to be the norm, we put partisanship aside to deliver a bipartisan bill that meets the needs of West Virginia.
This bill, which passed both the Senate and House of Representatives with bipartisan votes, is the largest investment in America’s infrastructure in three decades. This nearly $6 billion guaranteed investment in West Virginia will create long-term, good-paying jobs now and over the next decade. Every West Virginian will benefit from this bipartisan bill.
This historic investment brings roughly $3 billion to repair and expand our network of roads and highways, which will drive economic growth in the state while improving access and safety for every West Virginian. Our bill includes an additional $500 million for bridges, nearly $200 million for Corridor H alone and around $40 million for our airports that provide access to and from the Mountain State. Raleigh County Memorial Airport and Greenbrier Valley Airport will benefit directly from these funds. The highway funds will also help to complete major roadways, including the Coalfields Expressway and King Coal Highway in Southern West Virginia.
The bill invests over $300 million to ensure better, safer, more efficient public buses and trains to make the entire state more accessible via public transportation. Beckley will receive around $6 million through the bipartisan bill.
We also worked to include a provision that brings us one step closer to restoring daily service on the Amtrak Cardinal train that connects much of West Virginia, including our State Capital, Marshall University, and the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, to the rest of the United States.
The importance of broadband connectivity for West Virginians was never clearer than during the Covid-19 pandemic. If we want to continue to attract new jobs and new visitors, affordable, reliable broadband is essential. That’s why the bipartisan infrastructure bill includes around $600 million to expand broadband access to every holler and town across West Virginia. In addition, the Affordability Connectivity Benefit will provide financial support for 543,000 low-income West Virginians so they’re not left behind.
More than 400 public drinking water systems serving 1.5 million West Virginians require nearly $2 billion in repairs. Two hundred and ninety-three public wastewater systems that serve more than 440,000 residents require at least $12 billion in upgrades and extensions. The bipartisan bill includes over $475 million to upgrade, repair and replace the old pipes, sewer systems and drinking water systems to ensure every West Virginian, including those in rural water districts, has the safe, clean drinking water they need and deserve.
As the only state fully included in the Appalachian Region, we will also greatly benefit from the $1 billion to support the important work being done by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
In recent years, many West Virginians have lost power due to severe weather events, leaving too many families stranded without heat in the dead of winter or without AC in the middle of summer. Our bipartisan bill makes West Virginia utility companies eligible for $5 billion to shore up the electric grid and provide peace of mind for West Virginians despite extreme snow storms and flash flooding.
In West Virginia, one in three people live within a mile of an abandoned, dangerous mine land site. Our bipartisan legislation reauthorizes the abandoned mine land reclamation fee for another 13 years and invests at least $700 million in West Virginia to reclaim some of the 140,355 acres of abandoned mine lands. The bill also directs $100-200 million to West Virginia to plug orphan oil and gas wells so the sites can become assets for our communities instead of hazards.
West Virginia is home to world-class universities, colleges, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory, all of which lead the way in advancing energy technologies, including the ongoing work at West Virginia University to shore up the domestic rare earth elements supply chain. Our bipartisan infrastructure bill supports these efforts and heavily invests in technologies across the board, including providing over $12 billion for carbon capture, utilization and sequestration and direct air capture technologies to allow us to use our abundant energy resources in the cleanest way possible. It will also jumpstart the hydrogen economy through regional hubs across America, which we’re fighting to bring to West Virginia.
It took months to make this legislation a reality. It was developed with a process of give and take, putting the needs of the American people first. By sitting down, hammering out our differences and taking the time to listen to one another, we created a bipartisan, bicameral infrastructure bill that delivers for all West Virginians. The legislation is now on President Biden’s desk, ready for his signature, and our communities across West Virginia are ready to put these vital funds to use to create jobs and better the lives of every single West Virginian.
— Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sheley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are U.S. senators.