By BILL LUSK
LOGAN – Voters in West Virginia will take to the polls on October 7 to have their final say on the “2017 Roads to Prosperity” road bond referendum.
Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed plan includes 600 road projects that could total as many as 48,000 jobs, bringing hope to West Virginia.
“We have a real opportunity to create real life jobs that brings employment to our state like crazy,” Justice said during the opening ceremonies of West Virginia Route 10 in Logan last week. “We can really bring people to West Virgina. Bring manufacturers, bring tourism, bring jobs and bring hope.”
If passed by voters, the state could sell billions in road bonds paid for via a gas tax increase, motor vechicles sales tax and higher DMV fees.
One misconception of the proposed bill is that it will raise taxes for residents of West Virginia. Justice said that is misleading and everything is already in place.
“There is no truth to that whatsoever,” Justice said. “Your taxes will not change in any way, shape or fashion. Everything is in place, everything is ready to go.”
Not everyone is on board with Justice’s plan, as the West Virginia Republican Party is opposing the road bond. By a vote of 99-1, the GOP executive committee voted against the plan much to the disappointment of Justice.
“It’s not good, because I think what happened there was that you had a couple of people who were standing up and all of a sudden the whole herd ran the way they were wanting to go,” Justice said. “We need everybody on the same page.”
According to Transportation Secretary Tom Smith, safety improvements could be completed in the next two-to-four years that would fix old roads, pave potholes and help build new roads.
Of the specific projects, a proposed $15 million would go toward improvements along WV 10 between US 119 and I-64 in Cabell, Lincoln and Logan Counties. The King Coal Highway would see a proposed $40 million that would construct a four-lane highway connecting Horsepen Mountain to Gilbert Creek in Mingo County.
Other projects include a proposed four-lane highway stretching from WV 16 in Wyoming County to Welch that would cost an estimated $110 million and operational improvements of approximately 69 miles of existing facilities in Logan, Mercer and Wyoming counties, carrying an estimated $15.5 million. In all the two phase project would cover 25 different counties totaling $2.9 billion.
“Oct. 7 is an important day and this is our chance,” Justice said. “It is a vision that will take us somewhere but I got to have everyone’s help. Failing to pass this would be the craziest thing we could ever do.”
History shows that West Virginians have had mixed results in regards to previous road bonds.
Of the five previous road bonds, only two (1973 and 1996) were passed while three (1981, 1984 and 1986) were rejected by the voters. Despite the mix bag Justice feels confident that the voters of West Virginia will make the right decision.