The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 28, 2012

Finding a way

If we can’t keep improving access, we’re going nowhere; it’s that simple

— If our leaders at every level — local, state and national — really want to turn around the fiscal fortunes in our country they need to look no further than to finding a way to upgrade, maintain and launch new infrastructure projects across the country.

It’s easy to say that, yet we all know the key is to come up with the funding.

That’s the tough part, but it’s the link needed to keep moving our country forward.

In every nook and cranny across this country there is a need to fund infrastructure projects of one sort or another.

In our region, we’re still battling to build and maintain roads and bridges, and providing as many of our people with modern water and sewer service as we can.

Infrastructure projects like these are both time-consuming and expensive. But they are needed.

Last week, a status update on the southern end of the proposed Z-Way roads project was given to us during an interview with Bill Baker, chairman of the Beckley-Raleigh County Transportation Authority. For half a dozen years now this group has been working hard to improve highway access with a focus on opening up new routes in and around Beckley.

Much progress has been made on the northern section of the Z-Way with the opening last year of another segment of the East Beckley Bypass and additional work that has been designed and will be performed during the next couple of years in and around Stanaford Road and Industrial Drive.

It has made a big difference and will continue to make it easier for traffic and new development along that route.

Now the other major site of traffic congestion, to the south in Beaver and Daniels, has become the focus.

If you’ve ever traveled this route during certain hours of the morning and late afternoon you know it begs for relief. The bottleneck is not only ridiculous it is a huge safety problem. It is a roadblock to economic development opportunities.

Our transportation authority knows it, highways officials know it and elected political leaders know it.

However, money for construction just isn’t there.

This is where it comes down to making certain government officials are properly prioritizing the expenditure of tax dollars.

Build it and they will come, bringing with it new revenue to support the tax base.

Any successful businessman will acknowledge that oft-used cliché of “you have to spend money to make money.” It is no more fitting in the case of the Z-Way or other infrastructure projects that create access and expansion like the Coalfields Expressway, King Coal Highway, New River Parkway or countless water and sewer projects that are on the drawing board.

Our leaders must find a way to fund infrastructure work; the growth potential for our nation depends on it.