West Virginia’s country roads are in an expensive mess.
“The revenue we have to work with continues to shrink,” said state Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox. “However, our costs continue to increase.”
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways recently delivered figures to the department about what it would cost to maintain West Virginia’s roads and bridges at their current level. The commission also studied what the price tag would be for future road improvements.
“One-point-1-3 billion dollars roughly in additional highway funds have been recommended to the revenue subcommittee for their consideration,” said Mattox.
Where the money comes from is anybody’s guess at this point. Mattox says federal highway funding is rapidly drying up. He projects it will lose up to $35 million over the life of the current federal highway legislation. State funding for roads and bridges in recent years has been stagnant. Mattox says the projection is it will fall off over the next six years as well.
As the money supply deteriorates so do the roads.
“People are seeing the condition of the roads and there is a need to invest in our highway infrastructure,” said Mattox. “I believe the tide is starting to change.”
Taxpayers have been fiercely resistant to any kind of tax increases, particularly if it adds to the cost of fuel. Mattox says the money needs to come from somewhere and it won’t be an easy solution when it happens.
West Virginia isn’t the only state in a difficult spot. Mattox says Michigan’s governor recently advocated an additional $1.4 billion a year for his state’s roads. Wyoming recently studied its highway funding and projected it will need another $1 billion a year.
“It’s like that throughout the country,” said Mattox. “We’re taking a look at what these other states are recommending to their legislature to find this money.”
The Blue Ribbon Commission is expected to forward its recommendations to the governor sometime this year.