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July 10, 2020

Amendment to Moving Forward Act impacts Garrett County

Credit: The Garrett County Republican, Joseph Hauger

WASHINGTON — While the recent passage of the Moving Forward Act in the U.S. House of Representatives was considered a success, Western Maryland’s congressman says a last-minute amendment denied some direct benefit to Garrett County.

Rep. David Trone, D-Md., said H.R. 2, which passed July 1, originally had a provision to shift funding within the Appalachian Development Highway System to speed completion of the remaining projects.

The ADHS was created expressly to provide growth opportunities for the residents of Appalachia — the same benefits afforded the rest of the nation through the construction of the interstate highway system, which largely bypassed Appalachia because of the high cost of building roads through mountainous terrain.

The 3,000-mile Appalachian road network has been in the works since the Johnson administration, Trone said, and still is only 90% complete. The remaining projects include the U.S. 219 connector between Pennsylvania and Grantsville at Interstate 68.

“We’re trying desperately to get money into those remaining projects,” Trone said. “A whole bunch of states received funding but no longer need it because their work is finished. Money has been sitting there for years.”

Funding earmarked for ADHS projects can’t be used for anything else, so the Advancing Infrastructure Development in Appalachia Act was written to have those states return the money so it can be used for the remaining road work.

Trone said the AID in Appalachia Act received bipartisan, unanimous support in committee before being added to H.R. 2, and still remains in the version of the Moving Forward Act passed by the Senate.

In the House, however, the night before H.R. 2 was to be voted on, Rep. Grace Napolitano, a California Democrat, offered an amendment to strike the AID in Appalachia portion of the bill. That amendment passed with Trone and a handful of Democrats voting against their party to keep the road bill in place.

“It’s simple, common-sense legislation,” Trone said.

But Napolitano was concerned that AID in Appalachia would restrict those funds specifically allocated to states within the Appalachian Regional Commission, when the funds might be able to be used in other states.

Trone said he hopes when the two versions of the Moving Forward Act are taken to a conference committee for reconciliation, the road funding portion will be restored.

Rural broadband

H.R. 2 also included a $100 billion investment in broadband funding, a top priority for Western Maryland that Trone advocated for as a part of the Rural Broadband Task Force.

“Rebuilding our infrastructure means creating jobs, connecting people through physical and digital highways and investing in a future for our children that has more opportunity,” Trone said. “This bill includes $100 billion to bring affordable, high-speed broadband to folks in Western Maryland and across the country. This funding will allow every American to access tele-health, tele-work and tele-education during the pandemic and beyond.”

Drug crisis

During consideration of H.R. 2, the House passed Trone’s bill that would create a pilot program to help communities better understand emerging drug threats in real time by implementing wastewater testing.

By understanding these threats, communities can create public health interventions to match specific needs. Trone also led the congressional effort to urge the Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Jim Carroll to implement this program.

“During this unprecedented public health crisis, we cannot forget about the many people across the nation who are suffering from addiction,” Trone said.