“Take me home, country roads.”
This song by the late country legend John Denver is a source of pride for every born and raised West Virginian. It elicits fond memories of scenic drives during the various seasons among these West Virginia hills. From rhododendron blooming in the spring to deer grazing in the fields during summer to God’s majestic masterpieces of red, gold, brown and yellow in the fall, driving a two-lane state highway in the Mountain State is a memorable experience.
Unfortunately, over the past decade, we have seen our state’s highways and byways fall into a state of disrepair. Oh sure, West Virginia’s interstate and corridor system are first-rate and superior in many ways to what you will find in most surrounding states — especially Pennsylvania — but once you get off these main arteries, things are starting to get out of hand pretty quickly.
Due to our historically centralized form of state government — where everything from highways to local schools and even municipal government authority has been controlled by bureaucrats and politicians in Charleston — it is evident that the responsibility and cost of maintenance and construction of new roads and bridges has grown bigger than the state can handle.
The state of West Virginia maintains more highway miles than any other state in the nation. Tens of thousands of miles of secondary roads and former “orphan” roads as well as thousands of bridges have become a complex liability that if dealt with properly would have erased every budget surplus enjoyed over the past six years.
The “orphan” road program adopted by the late Gov. Underwood only served to exasperate the problem, adding hundreds if not thousands of miles of what was previously considered to be private roads located in subdivisions and housing developments in unincorporated areas of our state. To make matters worse, the cost of construction material — asphalt, concrete and steel — has increased dramatically, in many cases reducing the number of miles that normal road paving funds would cover by as much as one-third. Compound that fact with a reduction of federal highway funding and declines in what has historically been the state’s primary road funding mechanism — the gas tax — and the West Virginia Department of Transportation is faced with the “perfect storm.” The trend of newer cars continuing to get better and better gas mileage and a national and world economy that continues to remain in the doldrums has resulted in a shortage of needed funds.
During the 2011 legislative session, state Sen. Bob Beach co-authored a bill that would have drastically increased fees related to the Department of Transportation — driver’s license fees, license renewals, state inspections, etc. This bill passed both the House and Senate but fell victim to Gov. Tomblin’s veto as state residents protested loudly about what equated to a $40 million increase in fees (read: taxes).
That’s why this past week, Tomblin said it was time to do something about it. By executive order he formed the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways.
Tomblin hopes the group can come up with new funding sources for transportation projects.
West Virginia Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox says the state receives about $1 billion in funding for road projects from the federal government each year. That’s the same amount they were getting back in 1991. Mattox added that considering inflation, that money doesn’t go nearly as far as it did 20 years ago.
“Currently we’re on about a 24-year paving cycle. We would like to be on a 12-year paving cycle,” Mattox stated.
Mattox says every $1 billion the state spends on transportation projects results in the employment of about 25,000 West Virginians. So there you have it: More and better roads and bridges as well as new construction jobs for West Virginians. The question is how much will it cost and how do you pay for it?
We applaud Gov. Tomblin for appointing the blue-ribbon committee in an attempt to address this critical need. The trick will be: How do you accomplish this without raising fees and/or taxes? Only time will tell.
“Take me home, country roads.”
How much Christmas spending is in your plans?
Among the top-selling Christmas gifts for 2013 are:
Beats by Dr. Dre headphones — retail price about $200, depending on what model you’re in the market for.
Paperwhite Kindle 3G — $120.
Furby Boom — $60.
Playstation 4 or Xbox One — about $600, depending on the bundle and games.
Cutting down uncertainty in energy sector critical for U.S.
It’s not a secret that the Barack Obama administration has left coal out in the cold when it comes to the administration’s energy policy.
At every turn, those who mine coal and those who burn it have had an uphill battle to overcome rules and regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Miner’s Day: Recognize contributions and sacrifice
We must always recognize the contributions and sacrifice of our nation’s miners.
That’s a message being reinforced today, the fourth annual National Miner’s Day.
The observance was the dream of Fairmont artist Creed Holden, a Doddridge County native who moved to Marion County to attend Fairmont State.
United Way’s success string can continue with county’s generosity
One hundred and five thousand dollars.
That’s how much the United Way needs to reach its 2013-14 goal.
That goal is $425,000. And it’s a goal that has been topped only once here in Marion County. A total of $320,000 has been collected thus far, and that figure is impressive.
Renovations, improvements key steps to safer schools
In the nearly 12 months since the horrific shooting of 20 innocent students and six staff members at an elementary school in Connecticut, school security has remained an important issue.
Should Black Friday start on Thanksgiving?
George Takei, once just a character actor on a hokey 1960s television show, has found a new life as a social media guru. A very unlikely one.
Giving people of county help bring magic to holiday season
We want to simply say thank you to the people of Marion County.
Dealing with local small businesses is win-win option to strongly consider
With Thanksgiving in the past, the thoughts of shoppers are now on Christmas.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become common terms for big shopping days as consumers rush to purchase those special gifts for loved ones.
Pondering our precious blessings on Thanksgiving
We have reached another season and the celebrated day of Thanksgiving.
Safe driving critical during busy holiday travel season
Many of our readers will be going over a river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house this holiday. And whether it be a couple of exits or a couple of states away, there will be some time spent driving to Grandma’s.
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