Inside Information: May–August 1998 Issue
ARC Highways Receive $2.25 Billion Boost in Funding
The Appalachian Development Highway System received $2.25 billion in funding as part of a federal transportation bill signed into law by President Clinton in June. The bill provides up to $450 million a year for five years to accelerate completion of the 3,025-mile system.
ARC Federal Co-Chairman Jesse L. White Jr. called the legislation a "major victory" for the people of Appalachia. New York Governor George Pataki, ARC states' co-chairman, observed that the funding "brings construction of the Appalachian highway system well into the home stretch."
"This bill means that, after years of battling budget cutbacks and having to finance construction of the Appalachian highway system in fits and starts, we are finally looking at a steady, substantial, and long-range source of funding," White said.
Of particular significance is the fact that the legislation funds the Appalachian highway program through the federal Highway Trust Fund. Up to now, the highway funding has been included in ARC's annual appropriation, which is contained in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill.
The Appalachian highway system is approximately 79 percent complete or under construction. The estimated federal share of the cost to complete the system is $6.2 billion. Under the bill, the highway funds will be apportioned to the 13 Appalachian states based on each state's share of the cost to complete.
"If we can maintain this pace of funding, the highway system can be completed in the foreseeable future. That is good news for the people of Appalachia because the highways are the lifelines of economic development in the Region," Pataki said.
Congress Acts on ARC's 1999 Budget
Appropriations bills for ARC's nonhighway program for fiscal year 1999 have been passed by both the House and the Senate. The House bill provides $65.9 million, the Senate bill $67 million. The difference will be resolved in a joint House-Senate conference committee on the 1999 Energy and Water Development appropriations.
The bills provide ARC's nonhighway program, which includes community development, regional initiatives, research, and local development district support, with approximately the same level of funding it received in fiscal year 1998.
In testimony before the House Energy and Water Development Subcommittee earlier this year, Federal Co-Chairman White and West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood detailed the impact of ARC on the Region. "ARC has helped narrow the socioeconomic gap between Appalachia and the rest of the nation. It is doing this by helping to create jobs, raise education and skill levels, and provide basic services to our rural communities," Underwood said.
"The members of Congress representing Appalachia have fought hard for ARC, both on the transportation bill and on the appropriations for the nonhighway program," Federal Co-Chairman White said. "We are grateful for their continued and unflagging support of these vital programs to promote the economic vitality of Appalachia."
Seven New Counties Added to Region
Congress has added seven new counties to the Appalachian Region, bringing the total number of counties to 406. The new counties are Hale and Macon in Alabama, Elbert and Hart in Georgia, Yalobusha in Mississippi, and Montgomery and Rockbridge in Virginia. The congressional directive to add the counties was contained in the federal transportation bill.
The legislation marks the first expansion of the Region since Congress added Calhoun County, Mississippi, and Columbiana County, Ohio, in the early 1990s.
Development District Association Update
U.S. Representatives Sherwood Boehlert of New York and Robert (Bud) Cramer of Alabama were honored by the Development District Association of Appalachia (DDAA) for their service to the people of Appalachia at the DDAA's annual conference in March.
Boehlert was recognized for his strong support for the ARC program in New York and for his leadership on environmental and economic development issues in Congress. In nominating Cramer for the congressional award, Alabama's local development districts cited his support for ARC in Congress as well as his leadership in the areas of economic development, public service, and infrastructure improvements, including the Appalachian Development Highway System.
The DDAA also presented the 1998 John D. Whisman Vision Award to Gene L. MacDonald, the founding president of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association (see Visionary Gene L. MacDonald). The award is presented annually to commemorate the work of John Whisman, who is widely recognized as one of the primary architects of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
DDAA officers for the 1998–99 term are: president, Kenneth E. Green, executive director, Region 9–Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council, Martinsburg, West Virginia; vice president, Rupert (Rudy) L. Johnson, executive director, Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, Starkville, Mississippi; treasurer, Edward M. Silvetti, executive director, Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission, Altoona, Pennsylvania; secretary, David W. Rundgren, executive director, New River Valley Planning District Commission, Radford,Virginia; and immediate past president, R. Douglas Taylor, executive director, Western Piedmont Council of Governments, Hickory, North Carolina.
New Alternate for Virginia
Virginia Governor James Gilmore has selected William Shelton, director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), to serve as his alternate to the Commission. Shelton, a Virginia native, was the deputy director for community development with the DHCD prior to his directorship and has also served as the director for the Virginia Center on Rural Development.