November 14, 2011

Rahall Addresses 2011 West Virginians for Better Transportation Conference

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today discussed the importance of investing in America’s transportation future to help grow West Virginia’s economy at the 2011West Virginians for Better Transportation Conference in Charleston, West Virginia.

“Corporations, consumers, construction crews, and most of my colleagues in Congress all manage to see that America can emerge from this recession stronger than ever before by continuing to make robust investments in our future,” said Rahall.  “America’s roadways, runways, and railways are not partisan priorities and should not be subject to the political posturing that is dominating the debate in Washington. All Americans would better be served if we put partisan politics aside so we can work together to do the right thing for the economy.”

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is in the process of developing a multi-year surface transportation bill that Rahall hopes will address the growing backlog of transportation needs.  The most recent multi-year surface transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU), which authorizes highway, highway safety, transit, and rail programs, expired in September 2009, and the program has continued to operate through temporary extensions.

“America’s infrastructure is crumbling and outdated, posing an increasing threat to our global economic competitiveness.  Arteries of commerce are clogged with congestion, resulting in billions of hours wasted, billions of gallons of fuel needlessly spent, and billions of dollars down the drain for families and businesses,” said Rahall.  “People and products are trapped on tarmacs because we are using radar technology that harkens back to an era when disco was king.  Amtrak is sharing the track with freight and cargo while the development of high-speed rail in other countries passes us by.  We have the technology to order a pizza online, but trucks have to wait in line at marine ports because we don’t use a high-tech scheduling system for picking up cargo.  And too many of the bridges that link communities together are structurally unsound, creating additional barriers for local trade.”

The Committee earlier this year held over ten public hearings and listening sessions across the country with state and local officials and transportation stakeholders to gather information from local communities to draft a new long-term reauthorization of these critical programs.  At the request of Rahall, the Committee made its first stop in the national series of hearings in his hometown of Beckley to hear firsthand about the transportation challenges facing the region.

“We heard from communities large and small, but one theme we heard over and over and over again concerns the tremendous uncertainty that is created for states and local communities when Congress fails to enact a multi-year bill that is large enough to adequately tackle the well-documented backlog of transportation and infrastructure needs,” said Rahall.  “Whether it is the King Coal Highway, the Coalfields Expressway, or Route 10, these projects are critically important for the regional economy – both in terms of the direct jobs, but also by the economic activity that is fostered when we have safe and efficient means to transport people and products.  Simply put, these are investments in America’s future that create and expand economic opportunity today.”

West Virginians for Better Transportation is a statewide coalition of businesses, trade associations, chambers of commerce, convention & visitors bureaus, community groups, local leaders, educators and many others.  These groups have joined together to express concerns about West Virginia’s transportation crisis and to call on state leaders to develop long-term solutions.