The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

January 15, 2014

Transportation chief says more money needed for road work

CHARLESTON — Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox gave his “State of the DOH” address to the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday morning, noting that his $724 million budget could use more money to improve the paving schedule for state roads and the maintenance schedule for bridges.

Federal funds comprise a crucial portion of that budget, and the state could lose those funds for the next fiscal year, Mattox warned. The secretary said he is wary about planning long-term projects beyond Oct. 1 because the federal program MAP 21 expires at the end of September.

Not only does Mattox face the possibility of losing a portion of his budget, inflation has eaten 30-35 percent of that budget over the last decade.

The largest expenditure is for paving at $162 million, and the state’s roads are on an average schedule of 33 years for new asphalt. Interstate highways are paved more often, an average of every nine years, he said, while county roads are in the paving rotation on a much longer schedule.

The DOH paves an average of 714 miles of roadway a year, he said.

West Virginia has the sixth largest highway system in the country, Mattox said, not because of its size, but because municipalities and other local governments have no budgetary control over the roads and streets in their communities. West Virginia is one of only four states to do that, he said.

Mattox noted the state has the third lowest disbursements per mile, the third lowest maintenance costs per mile and the sixth lowest administrative costs.

The secretary said he sees a level revenue stream for the foreseeable future because people are driving more. Part of the state’s gas tax fluctuates with gas prices, he said. Gas tax is ahead of $14.5 million, partly because the state is exporting 30 percent more goods than it has in the past.

Not only is the DOH budget flat, Mattox said the state’s population is expected to remain at 1.8 million for the next 20 years, meaning the same number of people paying for ever-increasing roads costs.

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