Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 3, 2014

U.S. Rep. Capito meets the press at the Mercer County Airport

BLUEFIELD — U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a member of the House transportation committee, had a front row seat on a tour of the proposed route of the King Coal Highway Friday. The motor tour from Prichard where Norfolk Southern located its regional intermodal facility, to Bluefield where the long-stalled out I-73/74 corridor project has languished for several years — underscored the region’s need for better roads.

“We got held up at the Christine West Bridge on the way here,” Capito said after arriving at the Mercer County Airport about 50 minutes late for a scheduled press conference. She said that during her tour through the coalfields that she realized that communities like Welch are “so very isolated,” and noted that the area needs the kind of economic development that good roads can bring.

The press conference was a little awkward due to both the paucity of press in attendance as well as the fact that the brief question and answer session was being recorded by a representative of American Bridge 21st Century — a Washington, D.C., based Republican watchdog agency that is following Capito’s campaign for the U.S. Senate seat now held by U.S. Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va.

But even in an artificially convoluted setting, Capito made it clear that she recognized the need for better roads in the region, and that she intended to support plans for an incremental approach to completing sections of the King Coal Highway without trying to find funds enough for the entire project. She said that a similar approach worked for her father, former West Virginia governor, the late Arch Moore, during the completion of I-64 from Beckley to Lexington, Va., and recalled how long the interstate just ended at Sam Black Church.

She said that the region’s best hope for advancing the King Coal Highway would be to find funding in the new highway bill that Congress is working on. She said the current highway bill expires Sept. 30, and noted that Congress should seek a highway plan that would extend for five or six years in order to provide more stability for the future.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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