Congress, State Government

Justice announces $548 million in fed money for repairing, replacing bridges across WV; plus vehicle registration, titling to all-digital

MORGANTOWN – Gov. Jim Justice announced on Wednesday that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will bring an additional $548 million across five years to West Virginia to address its ailing bridge system.

Also, in 2023 West Virginia will become the first state to totally digitize its vehicle titling and registration process, he said.

Bridge money

The total bridge project figure is $548,083,740, providing $109,616,748 per year. That will be added to the $167 million per year the state already spends on bridges, Justice said.

“It’s just more and more and more good stuff,” he said.

The state Department of Transportation plans to increase its spending to $217 million per year in 2024, DOT said in a release following Justice’s announcement; with that increase, total annual bridge project funding will be about $227 million a year.

Justice said the federal money can go for replacing, rehabilitating, building and preserving bridges.

The state has around 7,000 bridges. Of those, 144 are not owned by the state; 114 are owned by municipalities. The IIJA bridge program allows the state to spend at least 15% of the total allocation to off-system bridges, which may include city bridges or other spans not owned by the WVDOT.

As it happens, Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston said, the portion of bridges not owned by the state is 15.2%.

And the IIJA money allows 100% federal funding for certain off-system bridges, which typically require a 20% local match, Wriston said; here, 39 of these bridges are eligible for the federal money but will require the 20% match.

For municipal bridges that would still require matching funds, the IIJA funding allows the state to work with municipalities to structure the matching money, Wriston said. So the state will be reaching out to the local governments to enter agreements to spend fed money and work out the local responsibilities.

Wriston said the state has a 10-year program to address 2,700 bridges and will be able to do all the bridges not owned by the state within the five-year IIJA window. The state DOT is also looking at 75 municipal bridge projects eligible for 100% funding through the IIJA.

Digitized titling

Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Everett Frazier said the state will go totally digital on vehicle titling and registration during the first quarter of 2023.

This will enable online, mobile and contactless services for vehicle retailers, lenders, insurance carriers and West Virginia residents through the DMV’s online portal.

Justice said, “This is an absolute milestone not only for West Virginia but maybe the entire nation.”

Frazier said they began a pilot project at the start of this year with six dealerships, then expanded it to all dealers across the state. Out-of-state dealerships that wish to participate may also join.

They are now signing up banks, lienholders and credit unions, he said. A process that took 30-45 days can now be done in a week. And for residents, it will reduce lines at the DMV offices.

This new process was provided by NIC West Virginia and Champ Titles, DMV said in an accompanying release. They are changing the way vehicle titles are created, managed and transferred in West Virginia, through the Champ Titles Digital Title and Registration Suite.

DMV believes the new process will reduce the amount of paper currently used by 4 million pieces per year, the days vehicles sit in salvage yards waiting on titles by 1 million, and significantly reduce the time West Virginians need to spend in DMV offices processing title and registration related transactions.

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