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Hiring, work on W.Va. ‘Roads to Prosperity’ to start in February

Feb. 16 Job fair scheduled to fill thousands of positions

From the West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians can start looking for both orange barrels and jobs in February, according to the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

Tom Smith, secretary of the WVDOT and commissioner of the Division of Highways, said the first wave of highway work from the “West Virginia Roads to Prosperity” plan will start across West Virginia as soon as the weather allows.

WVDOT Secretary Tom Smith, left, talks with West Virginia Press Association Executive Director Don Smith on the state newspaper industry’s new 30-minute video program, “West Virginia Press InSight.”

Perhaps more importantly, hiring for the work will definitely start in February.

Smith said Governor Jim Justice’s plan was always more than just a roads program. “It’s all about transportation, he said, but added,  “It’s about much more than transportation. It’s about economic recover.”

 “This is about thousands and thousands of jobs … We want West Virginians to jump in here. The Governor always said we want to hire West Virginians first,” Smith said.

“Feb. 16, starting at 10 a.m. at the BridgeValley Community and Technical Center (in Charleston, W.Va.), there is going to be a big job fair,” Smith said, explaining the WVDOT and West Virginia Contractors Association are hosting the event to hire people to work with the contractors across the state.

Additionally, Smith said, WVDOT will also be hiring up to 500 people in all categories: engineers, accountants, environmentalists, highway workers.

Secretary Smith spoke with West Virginia Press Association Executive Director Don Smith on the state newspaper industry’s new 30-minute video program, “West Virginia Press InSight.” The program, hosted by Tom Hunter and Betsy Debord, is sponsored in part by AARP WV and WVUToday, with support from the West Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association and West Virginia Office of Tourism. See the entire program, Smith’s  interview and get more details on highway work and jobs on the video below:

In terms of actual highway work, Smith said it will quickly follow the hiring, with some bridge work expected in February.

“I would think you would see (highway) work starting in March. Truly in May, you will see it ramp up. … There are going to be a lot of orange barrels out and about,” Smith said, adding WVDOT will get information out to help motorist plan travel and avoid delays.

How many delays? The WVDOT plan includes 60 miles of complete interstate reconstruction in the coming year, up from seven miles last year.

Work from the ‘West Virginia Roads to Prosperity’ $2.6 billion bond issue will roll out in phases, according to Smith.

The first work will be $260 million worth of bridge and interstate work approved in late 2017. That will start as soon as the weather breaks.

Once a W.Va. Parkways Authority study is complete and related bonds sold, $120 million in projects will start on W.Va. Route 10 in the Bluefield area and on the “Bridge to Nowhere, ” also in the Bluefield area.

“There is going to be a steady drumbeat of projects going out the door,” Smith said, adding $800 million is ready for 10 projects across the state. The projects will start in May and continue throughout the summer. That work includes the 25 bridges along Interstate 70 in the Wheeling area.

The first of those 10 projects, however, will be a turnpike widening project in Beckley.

While many of the projects are repairs and replacement, Smith said there are also new efforts.

The state’s transportation secretary said Governor Justice made sure that WVDOT is working with Secretary Woody Thrasher in Commerce and Commissioner Chelsea Ruby in Tourism to ensure good communications on some targeted projects related to economic development and tourism.

A new area of interest, Smith said, are developing designated motorcycle routes in West Virginia, explaining routes exist in other states — such as the “Dragontail” in North Carolina and Tennessee.  “We are identifying routes in West Virginia that can serve a similar function,” Smith said.

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