CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Transportation will be receiving major funding on two specific projects.
On Thursday, the news was announced that West Virginia will receive $40 million through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grants to construct a bypass around Berkeley Springs and the construction of approximately 10 miles of a four-lane expressway in Tucker County.
In a release, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said, “This is a much needed investment in two critical projects that will make West Virginia roadways safer and more efficient. Not only is this good for travelers and those living in Berkeley Springs and Tucker County communities, but it’s good for commerce and our state’s economic potential by better connecting West Virginia to transportation hubs around the country,” Senator Capito said. “From my first day in the Senate, I have advocated for Corridor H and similar projects that will greatly improve our transportation infrastructure, and I’m glad my conversations with Transportation Secretary Chao have proved beneficial to West Virginia. I will continue working to help deliver similar resources.”
BUILD grants are given to states, regions, and communities through need and the potential impact it could have on the area.
The possible 10-mile construction for a four-lane expressway in Tucker County will connect to a part of Corridor H in Parsons, a system designed to connect east-central West Virginia to large cities and points along I-81.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D. W.Va., expressed the importance of the funding in a statement on Thursday: “Investing in American infrastructure is one of the most important steps we can take to put people back to work and get our economy moving again. I have personally discussed the need for BUILD Grant infrastructure funding with Secretary Chao and stressed to her the vital need to West Virginia. I was very disturbed by the lack of funding within this program for Appalachia last year. I continue to believe that the construction of transportation infrastructure can spur economic development in our state, which is why I have worked with the Department of Transportation to encourage them to make changes to this critical program, and I am happy to see that West Virginia is reaping those benefits today. I will continue to push for increased funding to complete Corridor H and the Appalachian Highway Development System.”
$20 million will go towards the Tucker County expressway project along Corridor H while $20 million will go into the Berkeley Spring bypass project on U.S. Route 522. The construction in Morgan County will include the making of the Fairview Connector. The completion of the bypass will make it four miles long and a four-lane highway.
Congressman Alex X. Mooney, W.Va.-02, expressed these words in a statement on Thursday about both projects: “These investments will continue to boost economic activity and enhance safety. Infrastructure is vital to the economic development and growth of this region. I am glad that Secretary (Elaine) Chao approved my requests and I will continue to work with Governor (Jim) Justice’s Administration, the West Virginia Congressional Delegation and local leaders on much needed local improvement projects. Although Tucker County borders my Congressional District, this project will benefit the entire region.”
There is a press conference scheduled for Tuesday, December 11, in Washington, D.C. to officially announce the award. Among those scheduled to be in attendance is Gov. Jim Justice.
This is the first type of BUILD grants received by West Virginia since 2014.
“This is big-time grant money coming to us for the first time in four years,” Gov. Justice said in a statement. “With this $40 million, the WV Department of Transportation can make real progress on these two projects, and keep the momentum going full-steam ahead on my initiative to improve West Virginia’s aging transportation infrastructure.
“My office reached out to the White House and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation several months ago and asked why West Virginia had been overlooked for this funding the past several years. We then made a strong case for funding these projects, and I could not be happier with this announcement today. All West Virginians will benefit from these projects.”
By Jake Flatley