Summit Highlights Deteriorating State of our Nation's Transportation Infrastructure and the Critical Need for Investment


Just a generation ago, the United States invested heavily to create one of the world's best transportation infrastructure networks. But today, real investment is stagnating and much of our nation's infrastructure is both outdated and deteriorating. In fact, the U.S. ranks 25th in the world in terms of infrastructure quality and condition.  As a result, the nation's transportation infrastructure, our economy's economic engine, has been left to hang in the balance.

The state of our nation's infrastructure was the

topic of discussion for the West Virginia Transportation & Infrastructure Summit which drew a crowd of 140 to the Culture Center in Charleston on July 14.  The event, hosted by the DRWV Foundation, featured a distinguished list of keynote speakers including Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, Congressman Nick Rahall and U.S Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx.  In addition, panels included senior government officials and industry experts on transportation and infrastructure from around the country who discussed the challenges we face, and public private financing solutions to meet the transportation demands of the 21st Century. 


The Summit was Senator Manchin's first event since being named Honorary Chairman of the Foundation in April.  Senator Manchin and Congressman Rahall were the featured morning keynotes and emphasized the need for Congress to find a long-term solution to the nation's infrastructure crisis.  "Reliable and innovative transportation infrastructure not only keeps our citizen's safe, but it is also critical to helping us attract the businesses that create jobs and the residents who drive economic development.  This is not a Democratic or Republican issue; this is an American issue that concerns the safety of our citizens and the stability of our national economy," Manchin said.    


Senator Jay Rockefeller and Anthony Foxx were the luncheon's featured keynotes.  Senator Rockefeller was presented with two awards for decades of tireless work on behalf of the state's aviation industry by Susan Chernenko, Director of the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission and Rick Atkinson, Executive Director of Yeager Airport.  Senator Rockefeller, a passionate advocate of increased federal funding for transportation infrastructure stressed that "the fact is that if we don't fix the Highway Trust Fund, we will have no federal funding for transportation projects," Rockefeller said.  "A transportation shutdown would slow projects, stop contracts and jobs, and effectively put thousands of jobs in jeopardy." 


"I'm working in the Senate to get this fixed now.  We can't afford to wait any longer - it jeopardizes our economy and competiveness and the safety of the traveling public," Rockefeller added. 


Secretary Foxx echoed much of Senator Rockefeller's comments, and noted that the "Grow America Act" (a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill) would provide a long-term solution to the transportation infrastructure crisis.  During the next four years, the Highway Trust Fund will be $63 billion short and transportation leaders say the Grow America Act would replenish that.  If not, they'll have to resort to short term fixes or patches.  "Even if a patch is found this year, next year will be like groundhog day; we'll find ourselves right back here and without a good answer as to what we're going to do over the long-term," Foxx said.


Following the Summit, with support by Congressman Rahall and Senators Rockefeller and Manchin, bills passed both the House and Senate which will replenish the Highway Trust Fund through May 2015. It's important to note that this bill provides only temporary funding.  The Summit's keynote speakers all agree that a long-term solution is the only real remedy moving forward. 


Tom Heywood, president of the DRWV Foundation and Ellen Cappellanti past president of the Foundation and current board member, served as the official hosts and emcees for the Summit.    


The DRWV Foundation would like to acknowledge the following companies and organizations for their generous support of the Summit, including:  the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission; Yeager Airport; America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA); E.L. Robinson Engineering; FTI Consulting; Hino Motors, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia; Airlines for America; the Contractors Association of West Virginia; King Coal Highway I-73/74 Authority; Robert C. Byrd Corridor H Highway Authority and West Virginians for Better Transportation. 




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