Road funding solution needed

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register         

WHEELING, W.Va. — Remember the “blue ribbon” commission Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed to recommend solutions to West Virginia’s highway funding dilemma? After many months of work it has resulted in … nothing.

Meanwhile, Mountain State drivers continue to dodge crumbling pavement on hillsides, slam into pothole after pothole, worry about deteriorating bridges and do without new roads needed for economic development.

For years, experts have warned the state must devise a new method of funding road and bridge maintenance and constructing new highways. Fuel taxes that were the mainstay for generations no longer are adequate. Federal funding has been disappointing.

Earlier this year, a national non-profit group, TRIP (not an acronym) reported that 33 percent of rural roads in the state are in poor condition. About 13 percent of the highway bridges are “deficient” – though not necessarily dangerous – according to the organization.

So, what else is new? That may have been the reaction of many West Virginians who don’t need anyone to tell them highway and bridge maintenance has been lagging.

Don’t blame the state Division of Highways. Officials and workers there do the best they can with limited funding.

Members of the governor’s commission reviewed several options to increasing highway funding. Among them were higher gasoline taxes and tolls. Neither option would be popular.

But that is the challenge: The DOH needs more money – and it has to come from somewhere.

No doubt, that is why the commission simply seemed to fade away. No one in government wants to make the tough, politically unpopular decisions needed to bolster the DOH budget.

Someone has to do it, however – and without much more delay. Virtually everyone who travels West Virginia roads is aware of maintenance and repair projects that become more expensive the longer they are put off. Early in the new year, then, Mountain State legislators should swallow hard and tackle the road funding issue.

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