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Opinion: Will another Interstate 79-style snarl happen again next year?

By Matt Harvey
The Exponent Telegram
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Now that it’s clear we’re stuck with an Interstate 79 snarl for probably most of the rest of the summer (and perhaps even beyond), it’s time to look ahead.

What’s the likelihood the West Virginia Department of Transportation will award bids that result in similar woes on interstates and busy highways here and in the rest of the state?

What you think likely is impacted by what your beliefs are on this year’s project.

First question first: Did the Department of Transportation and the contractor that won the bid realize the daily congestion and other problems this would cause?

Some insight for those who want to debate this: The State Road Fund in the West Virginia FY 2017 Budget was $1.3 billion. Information available through the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office VISTA system shows the construction company has been paid about $61 million by the state since July 17, 2014.

Draw your own conclusions.

A second question: Did the prep work on all the bridges under repair on I-79 between the Anmoore and Quiet Dell/Stonewood exits get done in routine time? Or extra fast? In case you’re wondering: This question is relevant in a general sense because someone who anticipates a public outcry also anticipates what to do about it.

Again, draw your own conclusions.

Another factor that shouldn’t be overlooked when looking ahead to 2018 and beyond is the state’s struggling economy.

West Virginia agencies have been asked to cut budgets and already have done so. And there’s no reason to believe the state’s finances will improve rapidly anytime soon.

That means a lot of state officials are going to look for ways to cut costs. And one way to do that is to get contractors to come in with lower bids on projects. To get there, that might mean consolidating two or more projects into one, because the contractor then can ostensibly spend less money on staffing, materials and other costs through economies of scale.

There’s another part of this equation, too.

No amount of monetary savings is worth it to an elected official if it comes at the cost of too much political capital.

Translated: If area residents make a big enough outcry to their delegates, state senators and the governor’s office, the chances of this kind of project happening — at least in this part of the state — will be minimized.

Think of it this way. Delegates, senators and the governor’s office know state employees and state officials will vote. Their jobs may well depend on it. Now, what lawmakers and the governor don’t know for sure is whether state residents who aren’t part of government will come out strongly on an issue — unless those residents make it clear that that’s exactly what they will do.

To find out how to contact Gov. Justice in various ways, visit You can call his office at (304) 558-2000, or at (888) 438-2731. Or you can write to: Office of the Governor, State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston, WV 25305.

To contact your local senator, visit To contact your local delegate, visit The site provides phone numbers and email addresses for each.

Or, you can address correspondence through regular mail by writing to your state senator or delegate care of Office of Reference & Information, Room MB-27, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305.

The Office of Reference & Information also can be reached at (304) 347-4836.

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