A 3,000-mile highway system in the works since the 1960s would be one step closer to completion under the Senate bipartisan infrastructure deal.
The agreement, reached July 28, would dedicate $1.25 billion to the Appalachian Development Highway System. Completion of the corridor has been a priority for several lawmakers who have been involved in the infrastructure negotiations or are likely to serve as key votes, including West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R).
Lawmakers voted to open debate on the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package, with a final vote to come before the Senate adjourns for its August recess.
The deal’s funding would cover just over a tenth of the approximately $10 billion that the Appalachian Regional Commission says is required to complete development. State departments of transportation have historically footed a portion of the costs. The commission is a federal-state partnership overseeing the system’s development.
Capito, who was involved in early infrastructure negotiations, called the Appalachian highway system “absolutely critical for the inter- and intrastate travel and commerce in West Virginia.”
She said the bill’s funding would help complete a segment that would “better connect the state to the Washington metro area and open up more opportunities for economic growth and tourism.”
The 13-state network, first authorized in 1965, was intended to “break Appalachia’s isolation and encourage development,” according to the Congressional Research Service. Its federal funding lapsed between fiscal 2012 and 2020. The Appalachian Regional Commission projects it will be completed by 2045.
“It’s about time we get the funding to finish Route 219 in Western Maryland and the rest of the Appalachian Development Highway System,” Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) said in a statement to Bloomberg Government. Trone sponsored a bill (H.R. 4116) that would authorize more funds for the highway system.
The final development will generate an estimated 47,000 jobs and $4.2 billion in gross regional product, according to a statement from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Sadek in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org