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West Virginians in Congress laud highways compromise

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's three members of a Senate-House conference committee that agreed on new federal highways legislation all lauded the agreement on Thursday.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, said the legislation approved by conferees preserve highway construction jobs and help pay to improve roads in West Virginia and across the country.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said he was happy to keep highway-funding levels strong in the face of "enormous budget pressures."

Under the legislation to be voted on Friday, West Virginia is set to receive $423 million for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 and nearly $427 million for fiscal 2014.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said on Thursday, "Under this highway bill, states will see no decline in the investment funding that they so desperately need to tackle crumbling roadways and deficient bridges.

"The states, and highway contractors, will have the ability to count on a stable source of funding, sustaining and creating jobs, and enhancing the mobility and safety of American motorists," Rahall said. "This conference agreement means jobs for workers in West Virginia and throughout the nation."

Rahall has been a longtime supporter of additional federal funding for West Virginia highway projects including: the King Coal Highway, Coalfields Expressway; W.Va. 2, 10 and 35; as well as the New River and Shawnee parkways.

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said Thursday's agreement will preserve jobs and pay for road improvements in West Virginia and across the country.

"While no major bill is perfect, I'm thrilled this agreement will keep funding levels for West Virginia highways secure and strong for the next two years. This agreement helps West Virginia plan for the future of its highways while creating and preserving jobs."

Rockefeller said he was happy the new bill will be in place for just over two years, compared to a long series of short-term extensions before today's vote.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said "I am thrilled to announce that Congress will pass a two-year highway bill, the first long-term reauthorization since 2009.  Most important, this bill will create jobs in the construction industry, which has been especially hard hit over the past few years. I fought hard to make sure West Virginia's interests were well represented in negotiations."

Rockefeller, Rahall and Capito were all members of the Senate-House conference committee.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said, "Investing in infrastructure isn't a Democratic idea or a Republican idea -- it's an American idea. While this measure is not perfect, I am pleased that my colleagues were able to work together across party lines to reach an agreement."

In their news releases, Manchin and Capito said they were unhappy the new legislation does not include a provision to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from barring the use of coal ash in highway construction.

Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Capito also support using coal ash in highway construction.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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