The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 17, 2013

Identifying funding sources for roads

The Register-Herald


State Senate minority leader Mike Hall from Putnam County is among a growing group seeking to address the state’s need for identifying funding sources to maintain and build roads and bridges across the Mountain State.

Last Thursday, designated Transportation Day at the State Capitol, Hall spoke about the need for having a broad-base of revenue streams to prop up the sagging state road fund. At the same time he issued yet another warning if something doesn’t change.

“Times are going to be a whole lot tougher if we don’t maintain roads. The public will have to buy in on the fact that roads are deteriorating,” Hall said.

Yes, those 36,000 miles of roads and 6,850 bridges are getting worse every day.

West Virginians for Better Transportation is a private group that was formed a handful of years ago to raise awareness. The group’s chairman, former state highways official Joe Denault, says there is no doubt additional revenues have to be found.

During the next 25 years, estimates to just maintain West Virginia’s roads and bridges is in excess of $30 billion. Monies from state and federal sources that are designated right now for that time period are in the neighborhood of $15 billion.

A third-grader can do that math. And we haven’t even talked about any new construction.

Ways being considered to boost road fund revenues within West Virginia include changing the flat-rate gas tax to a percentage-based tax, tolls, and raising the state sales tax and earmarking it for highways.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, as well as President Barack Obama, have pointed out the need for establishing more public/private partnerships to help.

Tomblin’s legislative director, Jason Pizatella, indicated that the governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Highways is exploring many options.

Factor all of that in with the ongoing gridlock in Congress, making federal funding a true uncertainty, and you can understand the depth and difficulty of the situation.

The only real constant is that there is a true need and it will have to be met if West Virginia is going to remain accessible.