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Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E., testifies before U.S. Senate

CHARLESTON, WV – West Virginia Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E., was one of four state, regional or local officials from around the country to testify before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.
 
Wriston, who has been instrumental in implementing West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity program, was invited to testify before the committee by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., ranking minority member of the committee. Others invited to testify before the committee included Delaware Transportation Secretary Nicole Majeski; Tuscon, Arizona Mayor Regina Romero; and Jim Tymon, Executive Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
For a Link to the Hearing, Click Here
The Committee on Environment and Public Works convened Wednesday’s hearing to seek local input into implementation of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Joe Biden in November 2021. The law will put $550 billion into new transportation, infrastructure and broadband projects all over the United States.
 
“We, the state DOTs, are in the best position to know how to utilize these funds,” Wriston said. “That’s what we do.”
 
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act programs are vital to rural states like West Virginia which rely heavily on federal funding to plan and implement bridge and highway projects. West Virginia’s portion of the funding includes $506.6 million to improve more than 5,500 state bridges.
 
But while supporting the goals and vision behind the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Wriston predicted failure of the discretionary portions of the act. Discretionary programs can create problems for rural states like West Virginia with large highway systems, including unpredictable funding levels, varying abilities of states to come up with matching funds and having to wait until money is actually awarded to start making serious plans.
 
Wriston expressed concern about coordination with different federal agencies. West Virginia and other states have already run up against federal deadlines that came and went before federal guidance was issued on how to apply for funding and changing federal rules and requirements.

“We need consistent directions, and we need consistent guidelines,” Wriston said.
 
Wriston urged members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works to help cut through the red tape and make sure the provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are implemented efficiently and with proper guidance.