From The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
There are a lot of moving components to Gov. Jim Justice’s much touted highway plan, including an upcoming bond referendum vote this October and the possibility of adding more toll roads in the future. But at the core of the governor’s “Roads to Prosperity” plan is his simple desire to create jobs, repair aging infrastructure and build new roads. And you can’t argue with that.
During a stop last week in McDowell County, Justice and state Transportation Secretary Tom Smith made their case for repairing and rebuilding state highways and bridges.
“It will be very sporadic at first,” Justice told a crowd gathered at the Phoenix Center in Welch about the jobs highway projects could create. “Ultimately at the end of the day, I hope it’s thousands. It will start out with a few, and then it will grow and grow.”
For example, highway projects that are scheduled to get underway this year in McDowell County include replacing the Green B. and Margie Blankenship Bridge in Panther and repaving the Pageton-Elkhorn Road.
According to Smith, Justice wants to move immediately on using $2.8 billion in federal highway funds allocated to West Virginia. One of these projects, according to Smith, would include completing a section of the King Coal Highway, which would link John Nash Boulevard in Bluefield to Airport Road. The $50 million project, included in the state’s six-year highway plan, would solve Bluefield’s “Bridge to Nowhere” problem, and create a usable segment of the future Interstate 73,74,75 corridor in Mercer County.
Paving parts of the Coalfields Expressway also are included in the governor’s plan, along with working on secondary roads that are off the federal route system, Smith said.
The highway projects will, in turn, lead to job creation, Justice said.
“Bringing highways and jobs into this area means everything,” Justice said. “We surely need to revitalize our coal industry, but we need to bring real live tourism back and we can do that. There’s so many opportunities. Furniture manufacturing could come. Agriculture could come. There’s a lot of opportunities that are right at our fingertips here and we’ve just got to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
At the end of the day, we hope everyone can agree on the importance of repairing our aging roads and bridges. And we absolutely must jump-start long-delayed, but critically needed projects, like the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway.