The Times West Virginian

August 8, 2013

Make your voice heard concerning highway system in West Virginia

Times West Virginian

— Most drivers would probably agree that West Virginia’s roads need work.

Think about the last time you were in your car and traveling across the state. Whether you were driving a long distance or just a few miles, it’s likely that you drove through — or swerved to miss — at least a pothole or two.

You probably griped about it to a family member or friend later that day, but we doubt it went much further than that. At least not until the next time you were driving along that same route and hit that same pothole.

But now you have the chance to take those gripes to the people who can do something about them.

The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways is coming to Fairmont to ask people what they think should be done to raise money to maintain West Virginia’s ailing highways and bridges. The commission will meet at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center from 4-7 p.m. today.

Jason Pizatella, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and designee for the commission, said the commission was created to study the conditions and needs of the state’s transportation system in its entirety as well as develop a long-term plan of action.

There’s a lot to study.

Consider that driving on roads in need of repair costs the average West Virginia motorist nearly $230 a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.

Consider that the average driver also spends about $1 a day to support the state’s transportation system, including the roads, bridges and highways in addition to maintenance such as snow removal and paving.

And consider that the state spends more than $700 million on roads annually, and it needs to find another $700 million in funding just to keep up with disrepair and not be caught flat-footed by an emergency. To fully fund projects West Virginia has already committed to, the commission needs to find about $1.2 billion in additional revenues.

But that’s where the commission comes in.

The group, which has representatives from the state Legislature and government, business organizations and labor unions, is working on a three-pronged plan to solve the issue. The steps? Raising revenue, improving efficiency within the West Virginia Division of Highways and discovering new funding sources.

And here’s where you come in.

Despite all the voices represented by legislators, businesses and labor unions, Tomblin wants to make sure the people’s voice isn’t left out of the equation. That’s why the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways has been traveling around the state conducting these meetings — members want as much input from the public as possible.

If you’re asking why you should be involved, consider that well-maintained roads and bridges are crucial in providing people with safe, convenient transportation to and from schools, doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies and grocery stores. Surely you travel along West Virginia’s highways to reach one of those destinations, if not several of them.

People attending today’s meeting will be given a survey of 18-20 questions designed to get feedback on how they feel about certain possible solutions for the state’s highway system, ranging from raising taxes and fees to cutting money from the DOH. The floor will then be opened for public comment.

There’s work to be done, and there are people making the effort to see that progress is made.

Be part of the process by attending today’s meeting and making your voice be heard.