Breaking News

Opinion, WVPA Sharing

Editorial: Let’s escape unacceptable high road costs of West Virginia

From The Times West Virginian of Fairmont:
Bad West Virginia roads bring significant costs.

It’s more than the extra money state drivers are forced to pay for repairs when they fall victim to the all-too-common horrible road conditions.

According to the U.S. Labor Department in an announcement Friday, West Virginia had the nation’s fifth-highest percentage of job gains last month, trailing only Nevada, Iowa. Georgia and Nebraska.

Still, it’s no time to rest, and needed work on West Virginia roads, Gov. Jim Justice argues, will bring tens of thousands of job to the Mountain State.

Justice and Transportation Secretary Tom Smith, during a visit to Harrison County last week, are relying on bonds being passed by state voters in October to maintain “Jim’s Promise.”

That is the governor’s program for creating new jobs and securing economic stability by remedying infrastructure issues, including state roads.

Justice has signed legislation extending and expanding the state Parkway Authority’s tolling authority, along with an executive order setting an Oct. 7 special election for a referendum on whether the state may sell up to $1.6 billion of road bonds.

Funding is in place.

Justice was able to win passage of legislation raising the gas tax by 3½ cents a gallon and increasing the motor vehicle privilege tax and a variety of Division of Motor Vehicles fees to raise about $140 million a year.

That money will finance the road bond issue, if approved by voters. The gas tax and fee increases became effective July 1 and will not be affected by the October election.

Combined, the bonding proposals would raise about $2.4 billion of what Justice envisions as $2.8 billion to $3 billion of highways construction funding.

“If a road bond is rejected — and this sounds dramatic — in all honesty, you just turn out the lights,” Justice said. “Our hope and everything is over.”

West Virginia voters passed road bond amendments in 1973 and 1996 and rejected them in 1981, 1984 and 1986.

West Virginia is not waiting to ramp up its roads program.

Smith said he and Justice found ways to move up work that was planned for other years.

“In the first three months of this program starting right now we’ve leveraged $350 million of (roadway work) that would not have gotten started this year without the governor’s program,” he said.

Smith added that issuance of a $230 million Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or federal bond, will occur Oct. 27.

People are needed — people to fill “immediate jobs,” Justice said.

“Jobs bring us hope,” the governor added. “This is absolutely what we need.”

There are challenges — such as supplying needed training — and Justice told Smith that “whatever we’ve got to do to fix it, fix it.”

Smith mentioned that the goal is to get 500 new employees through the Division of Highways (DOH) in two months.

“We’re working with the means we have, but there are some avenues we need some help on,” Division of Highways district engineer Don Williams said. “We just don’t have the workforce; we’re struggling with that.”

Williams said they need a lot of truck drivers, engineers and technicians. People can apply on the DOH website.

It’s an early step toward escaping those high costs of bad state roads.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address