Six public hearings will be held throughout the state before the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways votes next month on ways to fund West Virginia’s current and future road needs.

“It’s critical that the public take an interest in this,” Monongalia County Senator Bob Beach said after the Blue Ribbon Commission’s meeting on Wednesday.

“Transportation is critical, infrastructure is critical to West Virginia’s future.”

In recent months, the Commission has been working on plans for future funding options for the maintenance, construction and expansion of the state’s roadway system.  There are reportedly four plans now being considered that include a number of possibilities, like an increase to the gas tax or additional road tolls.

Over the next 25 years, West Virginia officials have estimated the state will have about $15 billion in state and federal money to spend on roads, a declining number.  The actual amount of estimated need, though, is closer to $40 billion.

Sen. Beach says it’s a big issue.  “There is a lot that we have to consume,” he said of the Commission’s work on Wednesday.

“This problem has escalated here in the last few years, but the problem has been around for a while and, I think, trying to accomplish everything we need to do in just a six month period is a little bit of a time crunch, but I think we are moving in the right direction.”

The dates, times and locations for the six public hearings are expected to be finalized next week.

After those hearings, the full Blue Ribbon Commission will meet again on June 26th for a final time to vote on the proposal that will then be submitted to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for action.

It was Governor Tomblin who formed the group last August to take a comprehensive approach to West Virginia’s road needs.

It includes those from transportation, construction, labor, business and state government who are charged with finding ways to address West Virginia’s aging highway system for the long term.

A report last year from TRIP, a national transportation research group, determined 36% of the major roads in West Virginia are in poor or mediocre condition.  A third of the bridges are considered “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.”

In all, West Virginia has 36,000 miles of state maintained roads and 6,850 bridges.

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