Communities across the United States are gearing up for the historic push and newly unprecedented investments their regions will see with the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
One of those is West Virginia, which will receive $506 million in Federal-aid over five years to tackle 1,500 structurally deficient bridges. The state ranks No. 2 in the nation for the percentage of its bridges in poor condition.David Meadows, who helped prepare the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) West Virginia 2020 Report Card, spoke with the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition for its latest podcast to discuss the vast transportation and infrastructure needs in that region.
Engineers are at the center of issues that have exposed America’s crumbling infrastructure, and understand what is at stake. For instance, Republican Congressman David McKinley, an engineer, provided a much-lauded West Virginia vote for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Key votes also came from Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
The good news is that advocates like Meadows are helping explain the positives headed to states like his and anticipating these milestone advancements. West Virginia is also positioned to receive $3 billion for roads, of which $200 million is for the Appalachian Development Highway System Corridor H — an ask identified in the report card; over $475 million for sewer and water; $100 to $600 million for broadband access; and $46 million for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations. There are other funding areas identified in the podcast. They include federal monies for oil and gas wells that need to be capped, abandoned land mines, and public transit and airports.
But Meadows points out “these are drops in the bucket … these amounts.” Lack of funding and maintenance backlogs create problems fixing the area’s bridges, and he sees the recent call to stop gas taxes as endemic of how shortsighted some policies can be when highway departments are struggling for funding, like in West Virginia where there are $1.6 billion in annual needs for which the IIJA can help support critical investments, but not cover everything. He also believes Americans likely won’t see savings passed on to them, by oil companies, at the gas pumps.
ASCE is a member of ATM. Meadows is ASCE Region 4 Governor and Chief Technical Officer for Triad Engineering, Inc.