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Governor kicks off roads program with stop at Hurricane rest area


The State Journal

HURRICANE, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice picked a rest stop along Interstate 64 in Hurricane to kick off his statewide roads plan and to also plug an Oct. 7 special election to authorize the state to sell more construction bonds.

Gov. Jim Justice, left, and West Virginia Transportation Secretary Tom Smith arrive at a Hurricane rest stop to kick off the governor’s $2.8 billion road construction program.
(Photo by Rusty Marks)

Justice has proposed about $2.8 billion in road construction and maintenance projects all over the state. State officials plan to fund about $1 billion in construction through raising tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike and traditional bond sales, but the additional $1.8 billion or so in projects will require a constitutional amendment to allow the state to pursue additional bonds.

Voters go to the polls Oct. 7 to decide whether or not to sign off on the plan. The West Virginia Legislature has already voted to raise gasoline taxes and raise DMV fees to pay for the additional bonds.

State Transportation Secretary Tom Smith said it will take a while for funding from the bills passed by the Legislature to trickle in. But he said highways officials have been getting ready for months in anticipation of the legislation and bond election, and have leveraged $350 million worth of highways projects to start almost immediately.

One of the first will be rebuilding a six-mile stretch of Interstate 64 between Milton and Hurricane. Smith said the $15 million project will employ about 300 people.

“If you’ve driven (I-64) lately, it will rattle your teeth,” Smith said. He said highways officials hope to let the contract for the project on Aug. 24.

He said the state plans to issue its first $230 million in GARVEE construction bonds in October, but said passage of the road bond amendment will give the state the money to pay for larger highways projects.

“This is about highways, but it’s about so much more,” Smith said. “It’s about economic recovery. It’s about hope. It’s about thousands and thousands and thousands of new jobs.”

Justice, who is billing the roads program as “Jim’s Promise,” said the road construction program will be the vehicle leading to West Virginia’s economic recovery. To bring the state back, he said, “You’ve got to do something that creates immediate jobs.”

Justice said a massive road construction program was the obvious answer to put people back to work, stimulate the economy and help fight West Virginia’s drug epidemic.

“Jobs bring us hope,” Justice said. “This is absolutely what we need.

“This is the beginning of us truly being on our way back,” the governor said. “Today is only the beginning, only a sprinkle of what’s going to grow.”

Justice was expected to give a similar presentation in Clarksburg.

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