"In West Virginia, that translates to a loss of $143 million in transportation funds and 5,000 lost jobs. At a me when our national transportation system is in dire straits, it just doesn't make sense."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said, "I voted for the [Ryan] budget. This is about setting national priorities.
"We have to figure out how to get debt and deficit out of our future. Where are we going to find the money?" Capito asked.
Capito also pointed out that "pockets of economic development all center around" the presence of major highways.
Rahall said, "Today, the transportation sector accounts for 11 percent of our gross domestic product -- approximately $1.1 trillion annually. It supports one in eight jobs.
"Congress has long recognized the critical link between transportation investments and economic development. We know that for every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure, we create or sustain 35,000 jobs and generate $6.2 billion in economic activity.
"Simply put, these are investments in America's future that create and expand economic opportunity today," Rahall said.
Today, West Virginia ranks eighth from the bottom in the quality of its bridges, according to Transportation for America.
"Most bridges are designed to last 50 years," Rockefeller said. "The average [bridge] in our state is 44 years [old]."
Rockefeller stressed the importance of improving technology at our airports, especially in the wake of recent problems with air traffic controllers falling asleep.
The Ryan Budget, Rockefeller said, would cut the FAA budget by 25 percent, which could have particularly serious impacts on small rural airports in states like West Virginia.
"So as much as I'd like to be talking with West Virginians about finishing Corridor H -- potentially driving economic development for two-thirds of our state," Rockefeller said, "instead I spend my time fending off ill-conceived cuts to programs and investments."
Rahall said the House-approved budget would cut $318 billion from transportation investments over the next decade, cutting a third of all investments in highways, highway safety and other transit programs.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.