CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) buckled up Thursday to go under the Army Sergeant Archie Searls Memorial Bridge in Chelyan for an inspection.
It was the first stop of his infrastructure tour, which took him from bridges to waterways, to tracks to airports to assess some of West Virginia’s infrastructure needs ahead of the drafting of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
West Virginia Department of Highway workers say just because a bridge looks old, it doesn’t mean it’s going to collapse, but they wanted to show Manchin that preventative maintenance goes a long way.
“I took him down, I showed him a lot of the stressors, where we look for cracks and stuff like that, and deformations that shouldn’t be there,” said WVDOH bridge inspector Harry O’Connell.
Next, Manchin headed to the Marmet Locks and Dam in Belle.
On average, eight thousand barges a year come through the Marmet Locks and Dam.
The barges and tows carry millions of dollars in commodities like coal, chemicals, and fuel down the Kanawha River, helping keep fewer trucks and trains off the highways and tracks.
The issue, they say, is its aging infrastructure.
“These locks were built in 1934, this is the original lock, the original components, these things were built as most things in the industry are, you know, for a 50-year life cycle,” said Kelly Finch, director of operations for the Army Corps of Engineers.
If the infrastructure bill were to pass, Manchin says West Virginia will likely receive billions of dollars for infrastructure improvements; it will also help put people back to work.
“1934, the New Deal with Franklin D. Roosevelt — nothing’s been done, it’s time to start rebuilding America,” said Manchin motioning to the Marmet Dam behind him.
The Senator’s last stops were the Amtrak station in Charleston and Yeager Airport, where the new Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School and the growing airport will require additional infrastructure investment to keep pace.
Manchin says he hopes he has the senate’s bipartisan support on his return to DC.
The next step is for the Senate to begin drafting the bill, Monday.