For West Virginia to prosper we must reform how we design, build, and maintain our highways. After a century and more of highway building, many counties lack four-lane highways, nor exist highways connecting major parts of the state. At the current pace, expansion of Route 2 from Huntington to Newell will be around about never at a cost of gazillions. There is no four-lane connecting our capitol to the eastern nor northern panhandles without transiting another state.
We must radically reduce the cost and time of building and maintaining roads. The current system, created by so-called professionals and bureaucrats, benefits the current participants. They think the system only needs taxpayers working harder and sending Charleston more funding. Continuing to throw money at the current system will only result in additional slowly-built-expensive roads to mediocrity. The current participants should have little, if anything, to do with creating a new system.
Taking years to procure chunks of land often using our expensive and broken court system, starting over with every design, dozens of people scratching around with relatively puny pieces of earth-moving equipment, etc., isn’t going to get us anywhere. Borrowing money for 25 years to repave roads with asphalt that only lasts seven years isn’t a long-term solution. Our grandkids will pay on the debt while they drive in potholes fleeing the state.
The state should embark on a total overhaul of the current highway design, build and maintenance system. We need to encourage and assist the private sector to develop new equipment on the scale necessary to build highways at a rate of miles per day not inches per decade. New equipment that uses tens of thousands of horsepower rather than a few hundred to landscape the terrain rapidly like mining longwall machinery needs designed, tested, and built.
West Virginia has the people and inventiveness along with the capability to rethink highway construction. We must reduce the cost by 90 percent and speed the process by a factor of 10 times. The current participants will never do it. They will say it isn’t possible and they will do everything in their power to hinder progress. Just like Boeing and NASA would never have built a reusable rocket nor Henry Ford’s competitors have ever built a $260 car.
If West Virginia is going to move forward economically, we need modern highways in every crack and crevice, built more rapidly and more cost effectively. Manufacturing larger and better equipment to build and maintain highways could be a job-creating export industry for West Virginians. First, we must have the courage to send the current system to the ash heap of history. It is failing our people miserably.
Del. D. Shannon Kimes, R-Wood