Photo by Caryn Stein
The Wheeling Suspension Bridge in Ohio County is among many in WV needing vital repairs. Recently the bridge was closed when a sway cable broke free.

West Virginia isn’t fairing much better on the state of its infrastructure than the rest of the nation.  The American Society of Civil Engineers released its report card on the state of the nation’s infrastructure this week and overall the entire county gets a D+.

The report on West Virginia finds the state is a little worse in some areas and a little better in others.    Bridges were a key focal point in our state.

“You have more structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges in West Virginia than on the national average,” said Andy Herman a past president of the organization.

Herman says West Viginia’s climate and harsh winters are key contributors to the decay, but he adds equally problematic is the lack of proper maintenance, repair, and replacement.  He said the obstacle is funding.

“All across the country we’re seeing engineers in our departments of transporation having to make decisions on how they use the limited funds they have for maintenance, repairs, rehabilitation, or even new bridges,” said Herman.

West Virginia got low marks for highways which have fallen largely into disrepair.  He says that’s costing money when we don’t even realize it.

“In West Virginia it costs your motorists another $372  Million a year in extra vehicle repairs,”  he said. “That breaks down to about $273 per motorist that they’re paying to be inconvenienced and fix their vehicles.”

It doesn’t stop there.  The report finds West Virginia has $3 BILLION in wastewater treatment needs in the next 20-years.   There’s about a $1-Billion cost to improve drinking water systems.   The state also has 45-miles of levies which are in need of attention and there are nine sites in the Mountain State on the Hazardous Waste National Priority list. 

Herman said the solution is  multi-faceted.   He says there need to be disucssoins about how to make it so people drive less and possibly work from home or use public transportation.  The other end is far less popular.

“What if they paid a little more for a gas tax or another funding method to fix those roads,” he said. “It might even save them money in the long run.”

The organization’s report card comes out every four years.  Herman says although they nation got a D+, it was actually an improvement over four years ago when they issued a grade of D.

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  • Michael

    Huntington issued a users fee to pay for roads and such. But the roads are worse now than ever. If these people would use the money as promised, maybe we wouldn't have that problem. The City of Huntington used that money for other things and not what they promised to use it for, they wasted it. I'm sure raising taxes would go for other things as well. It's easier for police to pull people over for dodging pot holes and giving them tickets for crossing the center line or weaving.

  • Mike

    Why continue to pay private contractors millions of dollars to do a crappy pave job? Buy the equipment at the state level, train the current DOH workforce and take care of our own paving. Next, for another money saving idea; stop DOH workers and a multitude of other state employees from driving state vehicles home, only to drive back to work the next day. Some do need them because their work is travel but for others, it's just a free vehicle and gas at the taxpayers expense. Oh, and govern the vehicles to 70 mph. Nothing like seeing my tax dollars being burnt up by a state employee who thinks he / she is driving for NASCAR.

    • Barbara

      Wait until you are blocked in by falling trees, snow, flooded out roads in the middle of the night. Then cry about DOH using a state vehicle. You want their help then. We are under paid. You spend all the Holidays with your families. DOH is out around the clock working.

  • JOHN.W

    Why must it always be the gas tax to cure the problem. Why not add tax on beer,wine and pop.We would benefit from getting a little be more healthy.

  • Grafton Guy

    I propose one solution is to turn some of the county road mainteance over to county commisions. Cities are required to have road mainteance on smaller and smaller bugets while county budgets are expanding in revenues due to growth outside of most city limits. This would take some of the burden off of the state and possibly levy more funding for major highways. The way the current system is operating back roads will never have adquate mainteance.

  • NewsReader

    How about holding contractors to a higher standard, insist on pavement materials that actually last and install asphalt pavement thick enough to last! Repair base failures and go after contractors when the pavement starts failing a few months after installation.

  • Jim

    Suggested long-term solution. When proposing to construct a new highway or bridge, incorporated into the total project cost budget should be the annual maintenance costs calculated over the life of the project; i.e., bridge= 30 yrs highway= 50 years. These figures are readily available to the DOH and are based on decades of record keeping of annual maintenance costs and many "source" textbooks written by accomplished engineers and estimators. An annual inflation factor can be built into the life expantancy annual maintenance costs too. Politicians, federal, state and local are infamous for building projects with little or no regard for future annual maintenance costs and have no compunction about handing a 30-50 year maintenance bill to the next administration and surprise there have been no funds budgeted or available for annual maintenance costs. To summarize, if an agency cannot or does not budget annual maintenance costs and place those funds in an interest bearing trust fund, then the project is denied. This system would work much like the present "sinking fund" that utilties are required to deposit a % of revenue into for budgeting future expenses.

  • JimJim

    Can't work on road right now, too busy bashing the teachers.

    • Big Jim

      JimJim or picking out a state food, but wait they are getting paid Monday through Friday and start late on Monday and leave early on Friday. Maybe we should make sure they are in Capitol Complex working as the tax payers in WV are getting poorer everyday and I am sure its the teachers faults too. SMH!

  • Big Jim

    Hmmm, wonder if the Governor is going to have a highway reform bill to teach the their roads how bad they are. Probably blame it on bad paving or something.