Expedite road funding reform

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — West Virginia Division of Highways crews are busy right now putting an exclamation point on the case for a new, realistic method of providing money for road and bridge work in our state. They are doing so by making repairs and spending money – lots of it.

As Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin reminded Mountain State motorists during a speech Friday, the DOH is in the middle of a summer road repair and maintenance campaign with a price tag of more than $300 million. That is a record for the state, Tomlin noted.

Yes, a record. Never before has the DOH had as much money to spend on road maintenance and repair – but it is not enough. Far from it, in reality. While evidence of the summer road program can be seen all around us in the former of filled potholes, repaved roads, etc., much more needs to be accomplished. Critical highways are being damaged by hillside slips, some old and some in spots that seemed stable for decades. Roads that should have been resurfaced years ago are being pushed back on the schedule. Pavement damaged by heavy truck traffic is seeing only pothole patching, not work on more serious problems.

Again, this is occurring despite a record-high summer road program budget. We’re spending more and motorists are enjoying it less.

West Virginia is hundreds of millions of dollars a year short of what we need to maintain roads and bridges adequately and build the new ones we need, it has been estimated. We have known that for years.

Tomblin was right during his Friday speech to urge Congress to enact a long-term correction in how federal funding for highways and bridges is raised. States depend on Washington for a substantial percentage of highway funding.

But West Virginia – and most other states – need to address our own inadequate systems of funding highways and bridges, too. Until and unless that happens, this year will be a pattern: The best we can do just isn’t good enough.

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