Published November 1982 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd The Groundwork for Prosperity In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a West Virginia school bus driver recounted her morning ritual in driving her charges to school. Along her route is a bridge that is unsafe for heavy loads. So each morning, she stops at the far side of the bridge, unloads the children so they can walk across the aging structure, and drives the empty bus to the other side to collect them. An estimated 1,500 West Virginia school children go through the same routine every school day, walking across 20 West Virginia bridges that cannot safely bear the weight of large vehicles. Nationwide, thousands of students may be walking across unsafe bridges each day. This is a dramatic illustration of the shabby and often dangerous condition of our nation's infrastructure, the basic public works upon which we all depend. And unless we act quickly to shore up the underpinnings of our society, our roads, bridges, locks and dams, ports, water and sewer systems, public transportation, and other public works, we risk jeopardizing our country's future economic and industrial health. Well-maintained, smooth-functioning, and effective public works are critical to our country's growth and prosperity. To attract business and industry, communities must be able to offer the types of public services and facilities, such as a reliable transportation network, for instance, that foster business expansion and the creation of new jobs. Here in West Virginia, we can see the importance of developing our infrastructure. In Grafton, for example, a water filtration system that I helped the community to obtain is an important element in the planned expansion of a glass company there, which could mean many new jobs for our state. And in Princeton, a nursing home for our senior citizens was made possible after a sewer project for the town was completed. Putting the nation's infrastructure back in good running order, which would cost us several trillion dollars, according to a recent study, is perhaps the greatest challenge facing us in the next two decades. We have a choice. We can continue to allow our public works to deteriorate, threatening not only our future economic growth and prosperity, but also endangering the people who depend on our infrastructure, such as the West Virginia pupils who walk our aging bridges each morning and afternoon. Or, we can dedicate our efforts to revitalizing our crumbling public works and laying the groundwork for a better future for all of us. And that is the course I believe we must follow.