Proposed Berkeley Springs Bypass gets $20M in federal funding

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin on Thursday announced $20 million in federal transportation funding for the U.S. 522 Berkeley Springs Bypass in Morgan County, W.Va. 

“This is a much-needed investment ... that will make West Virginia roadways safer and more efficient,” Capito said in a news release. “Not only is this good for travelers and those living in Berkeley Springs ... but it’s good for commerce and our state’s economic potential by better connecting West Virginia to transportation hubs around the country.” 

Another $20 million was awarded for the Corridor H project in Tucker County, W.Va. Both allocations come from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grant awards.

Capito, R-W.Va.; Manchin, D-W.Va.; and U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., each noted in separate announcements Thursday that they communicated the infrastructure needs to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. 

“This is big-time grant money coming to us for the first time in four years,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a news release. 

Justice is scheduled to attend a press conference Tuesday in Washington to accept the grant award. 

With the $40 million, Justice said the West Virginia Department of Transportation can make “real” progress on the two projects and “keep the momentum going full-steam ahead on my initiative to improve West Virginia’s aging transportation infrastructure.” 

Construction on the Berkeley Springs Bypass, which is estimated to cost $64 million, is expected to start in July 2020 and be completed in July 2022, according to the transportation department. 

The work entails the relocation of existing highway and adds travel lanes for about 3.4 miles to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion. 

The state has committed to completing the Berkeley Springs Bypass through the voter-approved “Roads to Prosperity” constitutional amendment, which allows for the issuance of up to $1.6 billion of general-obligation bonds. The bonds are funded through increases in vehicle-registration fees and the consumer sales tax on motor vehicles, and raising the floor on the average wholesale price of gas. 

Justice said Thursday that state transportation officials sought BUILD grants for a total of eight projects, including a widening project in Berkeley County, W.Va.; the New River Parkway in Summers County, W.Va.; Culloden interchange; U.S. 52 expansion; Wheeling “complete street” project; and the Interstate 70 interchange in Triadelphia, W.Va. 

Justice noted that his office also reached out to the White House and the federal transportation department several months ago, and asked why West Virginia was “overlooked” for the funding over the past several years. 

The two grant funding awards, formerly known as TIGER grants, are the first to be awarded to West Virginia since 2014, according to Manchin’s news release. 

“I was very disturbed by the lack of funding within this program for Appalachia last year,” he said. 

The grant awards stem from $1.5 billion in discretionary grant funding made available through the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. 

In announcing the availability of the BUILD funding, the federal transportation department said in April that for this round of funding, no more than $150 million could be awarded to a single state as specified in the spending bill. 

The agency also noted that at least 30 percent of funds are to be awarded to projects in rural areas.

By:  Matthew Umstead
Source: Herald-Mail Media