BY CHRIS LAWRENCE
CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s share of the federal infrastructure law will be substantial.
The Biden administration recently revealed the figures for each state and the allocations from the bi-partisan legislation, which was approved earlier this year. West Virginia will get $750 million annually for the next five years from the program.
State Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston said it’s the biggest chunk of federal highway money West Virginia has ever received. Coupled with the ongoing Roads to Prosperity Program, he said it will be a huge boost to the state’s roads and bridges.
“We’re used to delivering a program like this. We’re in the midst of the governor’s Roads to Prosperity program, which is a $3 billion and this is just a little bit bigger stretched out over five years. We’re champing at the bit because this is going to make a big difference,” said Wriston.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes the single largest dedicated investment since the construction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and 1960s to help address tens of thousands of bridges in need of repair or replacement.
In Fiscal Year 2023, West Virginia will receive a total of $109.6 million in Bridge Formula funding to address highway bridge needs.
The funding is available to improve the condition of about 1,460 bridges in poor condition and to preserve and improve about 4,145 bridges in fair condition in the state, that are at risk of falling into poor condition.
According to Wriston, they will even use some of the money to do work on what are called non-program bridges.
“Those are bridges the state doesn’t own, like the city of Charleston, or Clarksburg, or Morgantown, or Martinsburg. Bridges that those entities own, we can take care of some of their bridges that meet the criteria of poor condition,” he said.
In fact, it’s mandated 15% of the funding in the bridge fund be used for the non-program spans.
Wriston said the new funding formula includes several new programs that didn’t existed before and will add to the funding.
“The bridge formula program is one of the new buckets. There were several new buckets like the carbon reduction program and then there was the Protect Funding Formula, it’s more for resiliency. We also have the National Electric Vehicle infrastructure program,” he said.
Wriston said West Virginia has always had a program to address and reduce the number of railroad crossings, but this year’s budget includes a new stand-alone program with the goal in mind to reduce railroad crossings.
The money will flow at the same rate from Washington into West Virginia for the next five years. Wriston said with that certainty, they are planning for 10 years down the road.
“We’re putting together 10-year programs so we can get systems in place, infrastructure in place and take care of the health of our organization so this can keep on going. I can’t imagine at the end of five years the federal government will just walk away. I tend to think the next infrastructure bill will be just as robust,” he said.