By May 27, 2015 Read More →

Hard choices are needed to close road funding gap

An editorial from The Journal 

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginians did not need the national research group’s study released earlier this month to tell us we have some of the worst roads in the country. Many of us are reminded of that every time we go to work.

For nearly three years, we have been waiting for the governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways to suggest how we can raise enough money to deal with the challenge. Last week, the panel finally reported its findings. Two key results:

– An additional $1.13 billion a year is needed to improve and maintain existing roads and bridges, the commission determined.

– About $141 million of that can be obtained through actions such as increasing tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike, and increasing vehicle sales taxes and licensing/registration fees.

Well, that’s a relief!

Pardon our sarcasm, but the panel’s recommendations leave a gap of nearly $1 billion a year in funds for roads and bridges. No mention was made of increasing the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, which is the primary state source of highway money.

There are other options. Increasing efficiency at the Division of Highways would help. Cost-sharing agreements with the private sector and local governments would lessen the burden.

Some suggestions should be rejected out of hand, however. One, to shift responsibility for roads back to the counties, would merely force them, not the state, to levy higher taxes.

It is time to stop waiting for someone to offer a silver bullet on highway funding. No such thing exists.

We know what has to be done. We know more money has to be found somewhere. The sooner we accept that bitter medicine and begin discussing how to do something about highway funding, the better.

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Posted in: Opinion

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