03 August 2009

W.Va. Spending Nearly $40m from Stimulus on Bridges

West Virginia has selected bridges "it could not otherwise get to in the next six years" to receive federal stimulus funding, The Associated Press reports.

The state has also chosen projects to ensure that each congressional district gets both the same amount of money and the same bridge area affected, Division of Highways officials told AP.

"Ready-to-go jobs that could quickly boost state employment were favored as well," the article said. All told, this approach "helps explain why an analysis by The Associated Press of its stimulus spending found that only around one-third of the bridges selected are considered structurally deficient or obsolete."

The analysis was part of a nationwide review of bridge-related stimulus spending that found that "tens of thousands of unsafe or decaying bridges await repairs. But of the 2,476 bridges selected by states to receive stimulus money so far, nearly half have passed inspections with high marks and so normally would not qualify for federal bridge money."

West Virginia is painting and cleaning, resurfacing or replacing a total of 87 spans, tapping $39.8 milion in the process. More than half the amount is slated to replace 26 of those bridges.

The national story noted "the wooden bridge built in 1900 carrying Harlan Springs Road in Berkeley County, W.Va., is one of the nation's unsafe structures not being repaired. About 2,700 cars cross it every day, but with holes in the wooden deck and corroded railings and missing steel poles, only one car at a time can travel the rickety 300-foot span."

The West Virginia-specific article cited state officials who said "that bridge is included in the state's six-year plan," and that they began designing a replacement and negotiating a new site with CSX Corp. in January. They expect to start building the new bridge next year.

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