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WV Dems Blame Justice, GOP, for Road Woes

February 10th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate say that Governor Jim Justice and Republican legislative leadership are still not adequately funding road maintenance or addressing future needs.  They cited a state legislative audit completed in 2019, which Democrat lawmakers requested.  The audit found that the state’s ten Division of Highways districts, made up of 55 counties and 31 expressway maintenance organizations, have spent well below the required 70% of their budgets for road maintenance.

“We were reminded last week that our infrastructure is badly in need of attention; first a section of I-70 in Wheeling was shut down to work on 26 bridges and ramps, then a massive pothole closed a bridge on I-68 near Morgantown,” said Senator Rich Lindsay (D-Kanawha).  “To finish the week of infrastructure failures, bolts broke on an expansion joint on the I-64 bridge at Nitro, which caused traffic to be rerouted for two days.”

Democrats said that it has been eight years since former Governor Earl Ray Tomblin formed the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways to study our state’s deteriorating infrastructure.  In 2015, the commission issued its report, which said West Virginia needed $750 million a year just to keep up with repairs.  Democrats also pointed out that the National Transportation Research Group found in their 2017 TRIP Report that West Virginians spend as much as $1,439 per year in additional vehicle maintenance and fuel costs due to poor roads.

“West Virginia has the 8th most dangerous roads in the nation, largely because 63% of fatal crashes happen on our rural roads,” said Delegate Danielle Walker (D-Monongalia).  “Our rate of fatalities is 4 points higher than the national average, due to speeding, weather, safety belt usage and the condition of our secondary roads.”

Democrats said that the poor condition of state roads has led to job losses, property damage, and accidents for state drivers, and is greatly damaging the state economy.  They said West Virginia needs to come closer to spending 70% on core maintenance, and must work harder to solve worker shortages. 

“An independent audit found that the Division of Highways has no formula to effectively distribute road funds among the districts and counties,” said Delegate John Williams (D-Monongalia).  “Our bipartisan House Bill 4120 says that we should look at several factors, including population served and growth, condition of lane miles, vehicle miles travelled, heavy truck miles travelled, and the condition of bridges.”

Similar bipartisan legislation (House Bill 3044) was vetoed by Governor Justice last year.  They support transparency in spending on infrastructure across the state to restore the trust of citizens.  Without well-understood accountability, Democrats said state leaders will fail to put West Virginians first.

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