Rural communities help fuel the nation, though decades of aging and deteriorating infrastructure have stifled the potential of the American economy and way of life, according to West Virginia University experts.
A proposed $2 trillion federal infrastructure plan, announced by the Biden administration, could bridge the gap between rural and urban America in more ways than one: opening access to jobs, healthcare and education, and boosting the economy.
Hota GangaRao, civil and environmental engineering professor, a renowned expert on bridges and transportation, focuses his research on civil infrastructure, including design, development, production and implementation of fiber reinforced polymer composites.
“Bridges, roads and waterways (are the most pressing needs for Americans). Rehabilitation of infrastructure, wherever and whenever possible, should be of high priority since the limited amount of available money can be stretched farther to provide max benefits to the people.
“Potholes have to be repaired to last much longer periods than a year or two so that rural residents will have easier access to schools, hospitals and markets. Citizens must also be able to minimize spending money on their auto repairs, which is around $3,400 annually. Also, rural residents can access good-paying jobs through rehab of our civil works.
“In short, the country can be benefited by: improved labor productivity, reduced auto repairs, reduced CO2 usage and construction waste, efficient and higher-quality manufacturing through modularization, recycling waste materials such as plastics and concrete, and training and retraining quality labor with better pay.
“West Virginia bridges are rated ‘D’ by ASCE (50th in the country) and we need to bring them back to at least ‘B-‘ in the next five years by judiciously employing modern rehab techniques.” - Hota GangaRao, the Maurice and Jo Ann Wadsworth Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, West Virginia University.
“The nation’s transportation infrastructure needs are acute. Our state, for instance, contains one of the last unfinished segments of the Appalachian Development Highway System, Corridor H in the Eastern Panhandle. Research shows this highway system generates substantial economic benefits and the unfinished segment means we are not realizing these benefits. Public transit provision remains low and this lack of public transit contributes to the low level of labor force participation and limited access to healthcare in the state and in rural parts of America.
“Transportation infrastructure improvements rank among the most effective economic development policies available to government. Transportation infrastructure improvement projects benefit the economy directly by creating high paying jobs and indirectly by decreasing business costs.
“Improved highways, especially completion of Corridor H, will increase the ability of tourists to travel to the state, benefitting the growing tourism industry that already enjoys a competitive advantage because of the many outdoor recreational opportunities available here in the Mountain State.” – Brad Humphreys, Professor, Economics, John Chambers College of Business and Economics, West Virginia University