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Gov. Justice urges WV highway bond support

By TAYLOR STUCK

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — In addition to better roads and immediate job growth, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice believes his “slam dunk” Roads to Prosperity plan will lead to economic growth that will sustain more jobs in the future.

“What will happen is this,” Justice said Wednesday at a town hall meeting at Marshall University.

“I believe there will be an instantaneous growth in jobs. It will take several years, but we will maintain those jobs. As we maintain those jobs, if the federal government comes through with an infrastructure program, we will just be rolling that into the whole program. But in addition to that, if they don’t, just for the pure fact of population growth, the pure fact of income from those jobs that are produced, you will have additional monies to do more projects that will maintain or create more jobs.”

Justice has proposed about $2.8 billion in road construction and maintenance projects in each county of the state. The plan is predicted to create 48,000 immediate jobs.

State officials plan to fund about $1 billion in construction through raising tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike and traditional bond sales, but the additional $1.6 billion in projects will require passage of a constitutional amendment to allow the state to pursue additional bonds.

Voters go to the polls Saturday, Oct. 7, to decide whether or not to sign off on the plan. The gasoline tax and Division of Motor Vehicles fee increases approved by the state Legislature this past session are already in effect and approval of the bond sales will not add any additional taxes or fees.

Department of Transportation Secretary Tom Smith said the department has already collected $17 million from the added fees. They have already begun putting that money to use by tackling secondary two-lane roads.

“Those are the roads you all live on and that never get attended to,” Smith said. “So we said while we wait for the first debt payments, let’s use that pay-as-you-go money to take care of the secondary roads. I think that will be a popular program.”

Along with $250 million in work through federal aid, the West Virginia Division of Highways has already leveraged $415 million for road projects, Smith said.

Big projects that have regional impacts will be funded through the bonds citizens will vote to approve in October. Those projects include widening Interstate 64 from Huntington to Charleston, plus a new Nitro-St. Albans bridge, and widening the turnpike.

“What I want you all to understand is the real significance of what happens Oct. 7,” Smith said. “We are able to get in one fell swoop a lot of those big projects and get those moving, but also to continue using all the other funds to work on the roads you live on.”

Smith said it would be tragic to pass up the opportunity the state has in front of it.

Justice said this is just the beginning.

“There is going to be so many opportunities that are going to happen in West Virginia it’s going to be off the charts,” he said. He called on everyone to vote, saying 12 percent of the population can’t just come out to vote.

“I don’t want to pass this by nine votes,” he said. “I want to send a message to the world that we are West Virginia and we are on our way. This is West Virginians, and we are on our way. I need you. You’ve got to get to the polls.”

The last day to register to vote in the special election is Monday, Sept. 18. Early voting will begin Sept. 22 and end Oct. 4. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook@TaylorStuckHD.

fixourroadswvGov. Justice urges WV highway bond support
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More than $1 billion in road projects planned if bond passes

By in News | August 28, 2017 at 5:00PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A 16-page list of highway construction projects planned by the Justice administration includes more than $1 billion that would be financed through the road bond amendment if approved by residents in a statewide vote scheduled for Oct. 7.

There are 35 projects on the list in 18 different counties that would be paid for with general obligation bonds. Bonds will be sold to finance the work and then paid off from taxes and fees already approved by state lawmakers.

The 16-page list includes dozens of other projects that will be paid for through Turnpike tolls, Garvee bonds and other funding.

MORE see bond projects here

Monongalia County has the most projects on the bond list at seven including plans for a new I-79 access to downtown Morgantown that would cost $100 million.

The DOH plans to spend $172.5 million for a new I-70 bridge in Ohio County while $170 million would finance an I-64 widening project at Nitro on the Kanawha-Putnam line including an additional bridge across the Kanawha River.

During an appearance Monday on MetroNews “Talkline,” former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Chief of Staff Chris Stadelman said bond supporters need to get their message out soon.

“You’re going to want to talk about jobs. You’re going to want to talk about new roads and improved roads and you’re going to want to stress that there aren’t new taxes involved with this. That the fees and taxes that are going to pay off these bonds have already been approved,” Stadelman said.

A coalition of business and labor needs to be on board or the bond has “no chance” for passage, Stadelman said.

“You want to have a campaign that gets very local,” he said. “Go to county commissions, city councils, development authorities, pass resolutions and get them on board.”

The list released by the state Division of Highways Monday included the following projects:

General Obligation Bond Projects

(If the Roads to Prosperity Referendum Passes)

Berkeley County – WV 51 Widening Widen WV 51 from I-81 I/C to WV 51/US 11 I/S (Inwood Bypass) $23,500,000

Berkeley County – I-81 Widening Widen I-81 $75,000,000

Cabell County – I-64 widening near Barboursville Mall  $65,000,000

Cabell County – I-64 widening near 29th Street exit  $50,000,000

Cabell County – U.S. 60 widening-Merritt Creek  $25,000,000

Cabell County –  construct near I-64 Culloden interchange $50,000,000

Hancock County – New Cumberland Relocate and widen WV-2 through New Cumberland $11,000,000

Harrison County – I-79/US 50 Interchange Construct split diamond interchange per draft Harrison County 2025 Transportation Plan report $30,000,000

Jefferson County – US 340 Operational Improvements at Harpers Ferry Construct turning lanes; climbing lane, etc. $11,000,000

Jefferson County – US 340 Widening Charles Town – VA Line Construct 4-lane highway between Charles Town to Rippon $40,000,000

Kanawha County — Widening of state Route 622 at Cross Lanes from 3 to 5 lanes $30,000,000

Kanawha County — Jefferson Road improvements in South Charleston $66,000,000

Kanawha County — Update of U.S. Route 119 in Charleston from MacCorkle Ave to Jefferson Road $65,000,000

Kanawha County – MacCorkle Avenue Roadway Improvements Reconstruct pavement and improve various pedestrian, roadway and intersection operations improvements $10,000,000

Lewis County – I-79 Exit 99 Interchange Rebuild SB Exit and Install Lighting $16,000,000

Mingo County – King Coal Highway-Horsepen Mountain to Gilbert Creek Construct 4-lane highway including Gilbert Creek Connector $40,000,000

Monongalia County – US 119 Mileground – Donna Ave to CR 857 (Airport to Easton) – 0.59 mile $15,000,000

Monongalia County – Greenbag Road Improvements Improve I/S & Widen (Kingwood Pike to White Park) $16,000,000

Monongalia County – West Run Improvements Improve I/S & widen – jct CR 67 – jct US 119 $13,000,000

Monongalia County – VanVoorhis Road Improvements Widen, improve drainage, add sidewalk – jct CR 67/1 to jct CR 60 $11,000,000

Monongalia County – Beechhurst Ave Spot Improvements Improve I/S & widen – 6th to 8th St $8,000,000

Monongalia County – I-79 Star City I/C Improvements Construct Directional Ramps and Improve Chaplin Hill Road $40,000,000

Monongalia County – US 119 Mileground – Cheat Rd – Donna Ave (existing roundabout to Airport) – widen $27,000,000

Monongalia County – I-79 Access to Morgantown Construction new connector from I-79 to Morgantown; location to be determined $100,000,000

Morgan County – Fairview Drive Connector Construct 2-lane connector road between US 522 and Fairview Drive near Hospital in Berkeley Springs $6,000,000

Morgan County – US 522 (Bypass at Berkeley Springs) Reconstruct US 522 in Morgan County to 4-lane highway around Berkeley Springs $40,000,000

Ohio County – I-70 Bridge Rehabilitation/Renovation Major Rehab and Replace $172,500,000

Pendleton County – WV 33 Climbing Lane Construct climbing lane on US 33 $16,000,000

Putnam County – I-64 Widening Widen I-64 from US 35 to Nitro including new bridge across Kanawha River $170,000,000

Roane County – Scott Miller Hill – US 33 Relocation Relocate US 33 to a new two-lane road from CR 3 to CR 5/12 in Roane County $42,000,000

Tucker County – Corridor H – US 219 Connector to WV 72 I/C Construct 4 lane Corridor H $90,000,000

Wayne County – Tolsia Highway-Pritchard to I-64 Construct 4-lane highway from Pritchard Intermodal Facility in previously graded areas & utilize existing US 52 & widen remaining areas $150,000,000

Wetzel County – WV 2 Widening Widen to four lanes from Proctor to Kent $80,000,000

Wood County – WV 2 Widening Reconstruct to 5-lane highway from Wood CR 3/8 to 0.3 miles north I/S WV SR 31 (2.0 miles) $36,000,000

Wood County – WV 14 Widening Pettyville-Downtown Reconstruct and widen WV 14 to four lanes from the Parkersburg City boundary south to the newly relocated WV 14 four-lane highway $15,000,000

fixourroadswvMore than $1 billion in road projects planned if bond passes
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Voters to decide fate of West Virginia’s road bond

By BILL LUSK

HD Media

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.

fixourroadswvVoters to decide fate of West Virginia’s road bond
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Letter: Vote yes on WV road bond amendment

West Virginians have the opportunity Oct. 7 to jumpstart our economy, create thousands of jobs and fix our potholes by voting yes on the “Roads to Prosperity” amendment.

Being back in the Legislature after a long absence, I am extremely proud that we recognized our crumbling roads and bridges needed to be fixed.

We passed a resolution to allow our citizens to vote on a $1.6 billion road bond. We also passed legislation that raises revenue to repay the bonds.

One only has to travel throughout our beautiful state to experience firsthand the need for new road construction and road maintenance.

The 2017 legislative session brought to the forefront many issues that have long been ignored. West Virginians are lucky legislators heroically stepped up to the plate — increased some fees and made adjustments to the gasoline tax — and put forth the “Road to Prosperity” amendment.

We listened to our constituents who complained about the deplorable condition of our roads. We all are tired of the damage done to our cars and the realization that many of our bridges may not be sound.

In a session mired in budget issues because our tax revenues are down, we rose above partisan differences and put forth the opportunity to put us on the road to prosperity.

Just think, with road construction and road maintenance, workers will be out in full force, roads will be improved and the economic benefit of $1.6 billion dollars of spending will be enormous and transformative.

Even though the Legislature passed the road bond resolution and the necessary revenue measures to repay the bonds, sadly the GOP Executive Committee voted to oppose the measure.

I am outraged and dismayed committee members chose that path.

Good roads attract new businesses, more tourism and a better quality of day-to-day travel for all of us.

I am sad the executive committee wants to hinder economic growth and consign us to poor roads. We need to look to the long-term future of our state and improve our existing roads and build new ones.

West Virginia has many challenges, and our Legislature has taken a bold first step to start the road to prosperity.

Now we need to vote yes on Oct. 7.

Charlotte Lane

Charleston

Lane is a Republican delegate representing the 35th district.

fixourroadswvLetter: Vote yes on WV road bond amendment
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Poll: Residents say they want to vote for road bond

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The upcoming vote on a West Virginia road bond stands a good chance of passage based on the results of the latest MetroNews West Virginia Poll.

But the real question is: Of all those who say they intend to vote on the bond issue, how many will actually follow up and do so?

West Virginia voters go to the polls on Oct. 7 on the road bond. Voters will be asked to allow the state to sell bonds to finance as much as $3 billion in road projects to be paid off with fee and tax increases already approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor.

An overwhelming number of those interviewed for the statewide poll say they intend to vote in favor of the bond’s passage.

Even the professional pollster who designed the questions, Rex Repass, has his doubts.

“We know that’s not going to happen,” Repass said in a telephone interview.

“I think citizens will say ‘Yes, I will vote,’ feel a responsibility to vote. But the reality is, even in general elections, turnout is not what it was in the past.’”

Passage would be a signature achievement for Gov. Jim Justice, who has said the roads projects to be funded would boost the state economy and provide employment for thousands.

The road bond effort has hit significant bumps in recent weeks, though. One was an apparent late start by groups outside the government in organizing a supportive marketing effort. The other was a vote of opposition by the state Republican Executive Committee.

Most West Virginians say they’re likely to vote in the special election on the road bond. Fifty one percent described themselves as extremely likely to do so, while 32 percent said they’re very likely.

“There seems to be some potential optimism for the road bond initiative, and there is a desire for road bond improvement,” Repass said. “However, this vote will completely be determined by turnout for groups behind or against the road bond.”

Of those, most interviewed said they intend to vote in favor of the road bond. Sixty-seven percent responded favorably while 19 percent were against it and 14 percent were unsure.

“While there appears to be some support, the actual turnout will drive approval or disapproval of the road bond amendment,” Repass said.

He added, “People would like to see the roads fixed, would like to see infrastructure improvements. But will they actually vote? If every West Virginian participated, I think it would pass. But I don’t think every West Virginian will.”

The West Virginia Poll resulted from interviews conducted between August 11-20 with a sample of 400 likely voters in West Virginia including registered Democrats, Republicans, Libertarian, Mountain Party, and unaffiliated or independent voters.

Likely voters in all 55 West Virginia counties were represented in the survey modeled to the number of registered voters based on data from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.

Political party seemed to make little difference in participants’ evaluations of the road bond.

Of Democrats, 68.4 percent were in favor and 19.9 percent were against with 11.8 percent not sure.

Of Republicans, 67.5 percent were in favor with 17.9 percent against and 14.6 percent unsure.

There were some variations based on ideology.

Of those who described themselves as liberals, 78.3  percent expressed support for the bond with 15.7 percent against and 6 percent not sure.

Of conservatives, 68.8 percent expressed support with 18.8 percent against and 12.3 percent unsure.

Self-described moderates were 56.8 percent in favor, 21.6 percent in opposition and 21.6 percent “not sure.”

Observers have wondered how Justice’s early August party switch might factor into people’s attitudes toward the bond vote.

Justice has said there’s everything to gain and — now that the funding mechanism has passed — nothing to lose.

Last week, while speaking at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Summit, Justice said his travels around the state demonstrate support for the bond.

“I went to Welch; there were 75 people in the room. And I said, ‘I want you tell me the truth. Will you do that? Will you tell me anybody you’ve heard — whether it be an inlaw or an outlaw or cousin, even Crazy Harry that works down at the 7-Eleven — anybody you’ve heard that’s going to vote against the road referendum,’” Justice said.

“There wasn’t a single, single hand. Now, I pushed ’em because I wanted ’em to say something like ‘I heard it’s going to raise our taxes,; which is hocus pocus bull. It’s not going to raise your taxes a dime. Every single dime of the revenue is going to the roads.”

Justice said that, in his view, it’s imperative the bond pass.

“This is our absolute chance to go somewhere and start lifting ourselves off,” he told the crowd.

State budget

One of the other big items on Justice’s agenda will be the state budget.

State leaders have required special legislative sessions the past two years to reach agreement on the budget. In 2015, lawmakers relied largely on an increase in the tobacco tax, and this past year the balanced budget relied largely on cuts, particularly to higher education.

Of those who participated in the West Virginia Poll, most felt that cuts should be part of any balanced budget solution.

Thirty-nine percent advised a balanced approach of cuts and tax increases, 31 percent advised balancing mostly through cuts to spending, and 21 percent advised using only cuts to balance the budget.

Only 8 percent advised balancing the budget mostly through tax increases, and 2 percent proposed balancing the budget only through tax increases.

Suggestions on what should be cut, though, were all over the board.

Twenty-nine percent suggested cutting higher education, 17 percent suggested cutting social services such as health care and other services for low income people, and 3 percent said public schools should be subject to cuts.

Those are the big three areas of spending in the state budget.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said those areas should be cut roughly equally.

Twenty-two percent said they’re not sure.

Coming Thursday:

Do voters prefer a Democratic or Republican majority in the Legislature?

How do state residents view Governor Justice’s party switch?

Where does overall approval of the Legislature stand?

Attitudes about prescription drug addiction in West Virginia.

And, are state residents confident in local media?

Methodology:

Results of this edition of MetroNews West Virginia Poll are based on interviews conducted between August 11-20, 2017 with a sample of 400 likely voters in West Virginia including registered Democrats, Republicans, Libertarian, Mountain Party, and unaffiliated or independent voters.  Data collection methods used included landline phone, cell phone, and opt-in Internet panel.  Each data collection method has inherent strengths and weakness.

Likely voters in all 55 West Virginia counties were represented in the survey modeled to the number of registered voters based on data from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.

When using multiple data collection methods, it is not appropriate to apply a probability-based margin of error to interviews completed.  However, applying statistical tests of significance to each question asked at the 95 percent confidence interval yields an overall statistical error of +/- 4.9 percentage points based on the 400 interviews.  The 95 percent confidence interval varies by question.

The purpose of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll is to provide a snapshot of opinion and timely voter views in the Mountain State.  The media sponsor of the West Virginia Poll is MetroNews, the statewide radio network owned by West Virginia Radio Corporation.

Rex Repass is director of the West Virginia Poll and president of Research America Inc. Repass is responsible for questionnaire design, the respondent screening and selection process, data tabulation, statistical analysis, and reporting of results.

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll is a non-partisan survey of public opinion conducted by the Repass and Research America Inc. The West Virginia Poll has been directed by Mr. Repass and conducted periodically since January 21, 1980.  The name The West Virginia Poll is a registered trademark Research America Inc., all rights reserved. For more information, see www.wvpoll.com.

fixourroadswvPoll: Residents say they want to vote for road bond
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State sees spike in claims for vehicles damaged by roads

Publication: WV Gazette-Mail
Release Date: February 11 2016

By Phil Kabler

Used to be, the state Court of Claims paid out an average of 700 to 800 claims a year for vehicles damaged because of poor road conditions, Clerk of the Court Cheryle Hall said Thursday.

Last year, those claims jumped to 1,018, and this year, hit 1,250 claims, Hall said.

She said the spike in claims is directly attributable to deteriorating road conditions statewide.

“I would say the bulk of these claims are for holes in the road,” she told the Senate Finance Committee.

Once the Court of Claims bill (SB 515) passes the Legislature, the state will pay $983,000 to those 1,250 claimants, an amount Hall said is kept down because the court generally awards payment only for the claimant’s auto insurance deductible.

“That’s why there’s a lot of $250, $1,000 claims,” she said.

However, Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, suggested the law is being abused, as more drivers are made aware the state will pay for vehicle damage.

“You want to know the reason the numbers are going up? Because the message is going up,” he said.

Blair recounted an incident last summer, when he blew a tire after hitting a pothole. While changing the tire, he said a driver pulled up and told him, “You know, the state will pay for that.”

“We can’t have every pothole fixed everywhere all the time,” Blair said of the vehicle damage claims. “I can’t see how it’s a burden of the state and the taxpayers.”

However, Hall responded, “It’s the failure of the state to maintain its roads. It’s not the claimants’ fault.” West Virginians for Better Transportation, a group advocating for increased state spending on road maintenance and construction, estimates state drivers spend $400 million a year on vehicle repairs resulting from poor road conditions.

In a related matter, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday discussed a resolution (SJR 6) for a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that, if approved by voters, would authorize the sale of up to $2 billion in state road bonds.

The resolution states that the Legislature is to enact a state tax sufficient to pay off the bonds in 25 years, but provides no specifics.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, lead sponsor of the resolution, said he did not have any specific taxes in mind to retire the bonds.

“My attitude on this — me personally — is I’d be willing to look at almost any reasonable option,” he said.

Among the recommendations issued last May, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways proposed a $1 billion road bond issue, to be paid off by retaining tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike through 2049. Currently, the tolls are set to expire when the $300 million bond issue issued in 1989 is retired in 2019.

The resolution requires a two-thirds passage vote in both houses in order to become a ballot referendum.

Trump said he brought up the resolution, which was not acted on Thursday, to “take the temperature” of the level of interest in the Senate for pursuing bonds to fund state roads.

 

fixourroadswvState sees spike in claims for vehicles damaged by roads
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Senator says it’s time to address WV’s roads

Toll plazas on the West Virginia Turnpike, like this one at Sharon, could be a thing of the past in 2019, but some state leaders think West Virginia should keep the tolls going and use the money to help maintain other highways.

As the Senate Transportation Committee advanced a bill Tuesday to keep tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike (SB 397), one senator said it is well past time for the state to have a plan for transportation funding.

“Our roads are so horrible out there right now, we better come up with a comprehensive plan that looks at everything,” said Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne.

Plymale said other states have taken the lead on funding their highways, including Ohio, which adopted Access Ohio, a $3 billion program to complete 41 major road projects, funded through a small increase in tolls on the Ohio Turnpike.

“We’ve got the Ohio plan. We’ve got a number of other examples of what we should be doing,” he said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right and look at what Ohio and other states have done.”

Plymale noted that nothing has come of the Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways, which conducted an extensive study of state road funding issues, and released its recommendations last May.

That commission concluded that West Virginia needs to be spending an additional $750 million a year to adequately maintain its roadways, and an additional $380 million a year to complete proposed highway construction projects within a reasonable time.

Essentially, that would require doubling current annual spending on state highways.

The commission proposed about $141 million a year in new revenue through a variety of fee increases, and Plymale was lead sponsor of a bill last year that would have enacted those increases. The bill was never taken up.

He said Tuesday that constituents are irate that nothing is being done to fix the state’s deteriorating roadways.

“They’re pretty upset [that] there’s been no effort to look at a long-term fix for road maintenance or any new construction,” he said.

“If we’re going to diversify our economy, one of the elements you have to have is a transportation system that can move goods efficiently,” Plymale added, noting that the highway serving the new Heartland Intermodal Gateway at Prichard, U.S. 52, is in need of major upgrades.

The centerpiece of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations was a $1 billion road bond issue, to be paid by continuing tolls on the Turnpike through 2049.

Under existing law, tolls on the Turnpike are to expire in May 2019, when the $300 million road bond issued in 1989 is paid off.

The bill advanced Tuesday would keep tolls on the Turnpike after the bonds are retired in May, retaining a source of revenue that provides $85 million a year, more than 75 percent of which is paid by out-of-state travelers and trucking companies.

Committee members received copies of a resolution adopted by the Parkways Authority encouraging the Legislature to keep tolls on the Turnpike, citing the potential loss of revenue, as well as the loss of as many as 360 full- and part-time jobs.

Committee members Tuesday adopted an amendment by Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, that would cap funding for maintenance and operations of the Turnpike at $55 million a year, despite concerns raised by Brian Helmick, the Parkways Authority’s bond counsel.

Helmick advised that federal highways regulations generally require that all toll revenue be spent on the toll road or on routes that feed into the toll road.

“You can’t just, carte blanche, direct the state to use these monies,” he said.

If the bill passes the Senate, its fate in the House of Delegates is uncertain. House Roads and Transportation Chairman Marty Gearhart, R-Mercer, attended Tuesday’s meeting, but did not address the committee.

Gearhart is lead sponsor of a bill (HB 4222) that outlines the dismantling of the Parkways Authority after the Turnpike bonds are retired, and has said retaining tolls on the Turnpike would be “a broken promise to the people of Southern West Virginia.”

Also Tuesday, committee members reviewed a memorandum from West Virginia University law professor Bob Bastress for options to give state residents a discount on Turnpike tolls without violating the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Among the options: Increasing motor vehicle registration fees to cover the costs of Turnpike tolls paid by state residents.

Under the option, which Bastress estimated would increase registration fees by about $6.40 a year for passenger vehicles up to about $25 for large trucks, vehicle owners would receive a special EZ-Pass transponder that would not charge for passing through toll barriers.

fixourroadswvSenator says it’s time to address WV’s roads
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Editorial: What about the state of our state roads?

Publication: Clarksburg Exponent

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State address on Wednesday evening had a huge, gapping hole in it — or, in more appropriate terms, a gaping pothole — because he didn’t even mention addressing the State Road Fund.

By the end of this legislative session, it will have been three years since the governor first appointed the Blue-Ribbon Highway Commission to identify issues, needs and recommendations to address West Virginia’s rapidly deteriorating roads and bridges.

It has been over a year since the Blue-Ribbon Highway Commission’s findings were made public. The commission identified the need for the state Legislature to increase current funding levels by a staggering $1 billion a year just to maintain the current roads and bridges, plus finish highway projects already in progress such as Corridor H.

The scapegoat for the past two years has been Congress’ failure to approve new funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund. Congress finally did so in August, and West Virginia fared well, receiving $2.3 billion over the next five-year funding cycle.

Without that obstacle, all eyes were on Gov. Tomblin’s office to develop and propose a solution for the under-funded State Road Fund.

State residents and legislators alike fully expected that the governor would finally address this issue during his 2016 State of the State address, as well as in the 2017 fiscal-year budget proposal he delivers to both the Senate and House leadership at the conclusion of his speech.

Sadly, it didn’t occur.

The governor and Legislature have been kicking this can down the road for far too long. The problem is that, as each year passes, the condition of our state’s roads and bridges deteriorates even more, which means it will cost even more to repair or replace them as time goes on.

It appears that Gov. Tomblin, who is now in his last year in office, has decided to leave the massive problem to his successor. This will increase the cost of road and bridge repairs, and it will force state residents to absorb the costs of extensive repairs to their personal vehicles — to the tune of $333 per vehicle on average.

We implore our lawmakers to come up with a bipartisan plan during this legislative session, since no such plan has been forthcoming from the governor.

Besides fixing the state’s roads and bridges, we can think of at least two other economic benefits that would come from finding a way to fund more road maintenance and construction heading into this year’s paving season.

First, the state’s unemployment rate of 6.5 percent is the highest in the nation, and funding more road construction is an opportunity to put thousands of people to work —especially laid-off coal miners.

Second, quality highway infrastructure is a top priority for practically every business, manufacturer and job creator in determining where they are going to locate and invest in new facilities. After considering the conditions of West Virginia’s roads and the lack of a plan to fix them, most corporate executives are likely to select locations where roads are an asset, not a liability.

Let’s hope that in this election year, state legislators stand up and prove they deserve to be re-elected by showing they have the leadership necessary to address one of the state’s biggest problems — the State Road Fund.

fixourroadswvEditorial: What about the state of our state roads?
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Coalition Unveils New Statewide Informational Campaign 

Charleston, W.Va. – West Virginia’s transportation infrastructure is facing a major funding crisis and, if left unresolved, will continue to deteriorate at an accelerated and alarming rate. That’s the message West Virginians for Better Transportation (WVBT) and its more than 300 partner groups are delivering today at the Capitol. It’s also the message of a new statewide public information campaign – “Fix Our Roads Now” – which the coalition kicked off today.

“Other states – including Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio – have made significant upgrades to their roads and bridges in the past year,” said Carol Fulks, chair of WVBT. “We can’t keep waiting for the federal government to solve this problem. It’s time West Virginia develops a long-term solution and provides funding for it.”

The statewide campaign includes newspaper, TV, radio and billboard ads. A new website, http://www.fixourroadswv.com, has been created to better educate legislators, policymakers and state residents of the funding crisis.

Senate and House legislative leaders have been invited to participate in Transportation Day, including Senate President Bill Cole (confirmed), House Speaker Tim Armstead, Senate Transportation Chair Chris Walters (confirmed) and House Transportation Chair Marty Gearheart.

Inflation, more fuel efficient cars and greater demands on the system have eroded the ability of the state Division of Highways to maintain the state’s roads, bridges and highways.

  • There is very little funding to help pay for major new construction or upgrade projects.
  • The paving cycle of state roads and highways is worsening – to nearly a 30-year cycle.
  • Driving on rough roads costs the average West Virginia motorist $333 annually in extra vehicle operating costs – a total of $400 million statewide.
  • Thousands of construction and construction-related jobs have been lost in West Virginia over the past few years.

A modern transportation system provides safe roads for the traveling public and for tourism. In addition, businesses rely on a good transportation network in order to attract customers and efficiently transport goods and products.

West Virginians for Better Transportation is a statewide coalition that works to educate West Virginians about the importance of maintaining a safe and modern transportation infrastructure. The coalition includes 300 organizations, groups, government leaders and companies that recognize and value the importance of a good surface transportation system.

 

"Fix Our Roads Now" Billboard

“Fix Our Roads Now” Billboard

fixourroadswvCoalition Unveils New Statewide Informational Campaign 
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Highway funding left out of Tomblin’s State of State speech

Publication: Charleston Gazette-Mail

Release date: January 14, 2016

by Phil Kabler, Statehouse Reporter

One topic was conspicuously absent in Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State address Wednesday: Funding for the state’s deteriorating highways.

“I was very disappointed,” said Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Trucking Association, and a member of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways and West Virginians for Better Transportation.

“I realize we’re in a tough shape economically, but I thought this was one place where we could make investments and see us get our investments back,” she said.

Mike Clowser, executive director of the state Contractors Association, said Thursday he’s optimistic the 2016 Legislature will not ignore the dire need to increase funding to maintain the state’s highways.

“We think we pretty much knew it wasn’t going to be in his speech last night,” Clowser said. “The question going forward is, what is going to be done?”

Last May, the governor’s commission, made up of legislators, state and local officials, industry and labor representatives, scholars and citizens, concluded the state needs to increase the roughly $1 billion a year it spends on highways by $750 million a year in order to adequately maintain existing roads, and by an additional $350 million a year to complete planned highways construction projects.

The commission instead recommended $114 million in year in new revenue, primarily from increased DMV fees and sales taxes on vehicle purchases, as well as a $1 billion road bond issue, to be paid off by keeping tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike through 2049.

However, those recommendations were widely panned by legislators, including House Roads and Transportation Chairman Marty Gearhart, R-Mercer, who previously called the commission’s work “a colossal failure.”

Clowser noted that not only is there no proposal for additional funding for highways, but automatic downward adjustments in the state gas tax the last two years also have cut funding by $37 million, and one of Tomblin’s budget-balancing proposals would shift another $9 million from Highways to general revenue.

Clowser said passage of a federal highways appropriations bill late last year was helpful, but only amounts to an additional $10 million a year of road funding for the state.

He said that after years of stressing the deteriorating and hazardous condition of state roads, he intends to promote highways funding this session as an economic development tool.

“The key for us right now is jobs, and the key for West Virginia is jobs,” he said.

Clowser said an infusion of highways funds would go a long way toward offsetting a multi-year decline in construction jobs in the state.

Vineyard agreed, noting, “I think it would be economic development for West Virginia to figure out a way to fund highways.”

Brent Walker, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said highways officials were not surprised or disappointed by the omission in the State of the State address.

“Just because there wasn’t any mention of highways funding or any bills tossed out there, doesn’t mean that there won’t be discussion in the Legislature this session,” he said.

fixourroadswvHighway funding left out of Tomblin’s State of State speech
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