CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Going into the 2014 Regular Legislative Session state Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox had high hopes. He was armed with the results of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways. He had the media and the public taking notice of his department’s conundrum and seemed to be in a position to get the necessary attention he believed the state’s rapidly deteriorating road system needed. That changed January 9th when chemical leaked into the Elk River and contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians. Suddenly, highway construction and maintenance became a secondary emergency.

“There’s a lot of other issues like the water issue and the state budget that came up,” said Mattox. “A lot of other things have been a real high priority and had to be dealt with by this legislature in this session over the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways.”

Mattox isn’t deterred.  He actually believed it would be beneficial to hold off for a few months in hopes Congress might shine a little more light onto what has become a darkened path to highway funding.

“This summer Congress hopefully is going to look at the highway program on a federal level,” he said. “Our current federal highway legislation expires in September. Hopefully they’ll look at how they’re going to fund the future highway system in this country.”

Mattox said West Virginia’s highway program is largely dependent on federal support. He said it’s always been that way and always will be for the foreseeable future. He’s hopeful Congress will enact a new highway bill, or if they elect to go with the continuing resolutions he hoped they would continue funding at present levels.

“I believe once we get a clear direction of the federal program, then the state can begin to address voids that may be left,” he said. “We can do that through state funding or whatever we need to do to keep pace with our highway system in West Virginia.”

Mattox said the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways is vital and can wait, but needed to be acted upon rather than shelved.

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  • Philly

    Each of the surrounding states is implementing a plan to address their infrastructure needs. Either by taxes or by leveraging existing toll road revenues. The problem for WV is twofold: roads will continue to get worse and contractors will be focusing efforts in surrounding states, thus the little bit of work WV does put out will be done at premium costs. 76% of toll revenue on the WV Turnpike is paid by out of state users and all our elected officials want to do is remove the tolls or turn over the TPK to the DOH. One would think that by the year 2014, WV would have progressive, forward-thinking elected officials and proposed bills that would cause WV to regress would be thrown out immediately and be replaced with intelligent discussions. The outcome of this is TBD.

  • Chick

    So what you are saying is we have elected legislators who cannot focus on multiple issues simultaneously?

  • Barry

    I hope the DOH/ tax payers got a warranty out of construction company that did the work in Charleston. Not even six months and already coming apart.

    • Aaron

      What's sad is that product, provided by a company from California cost 4 times what a locally produced product would have.

  • jim

    Just a quick question about the last highway bill ......what happened to the $60mil. A year for three years that was designated for corridor H? They haven't even listed anything for at least 2 years where's the money going?

  • In da stickes

    Follow Virginia's lead and raise sales tax 1 percent and get rid of fuel taxes. Benefits border counties while making taxation more progressive.

  • James

    Election year! Tax increases are off the table. Duck and cover at the Capitol.

  • John

    People please note, while you debate the problems of government in the state, it is all a diversion from the fact two privately run corporations polluted the water and now state funds are even more limited because of their (non) actions. Corporations that only take from the people and leave only problems love diversions.

    • Mason County Contrarian

      You're right, John.

      I will add that, thanks to the investigative work by journalists at the Charleston Gazette, the link unveiled between the two corporations in question and state government is such that it should cause alarm for us all.

      • Jason412

        Mason County Contrarian,

        If you don't mind, would you post a link to the article you're referencing?

        • Mason County Contrarian

          My technology skills are limited but here is some more information.

          Locally, the most recent was found in the Sunday Gazette-Mail , February 16, Section C, beginning on page 1 then continuing to page 4. Disappointingly but unsurprisingly the column explains embarrassing coal and chemical industry connections to our own Senator Manchin (for whom I have lost considerable regard over the past several weeks).

          The column stated that the New York Times had also published numerous recent articles brought on by the water contamination detailing the money, lax enforcement of environmental regulations, etc.

          Just Google "West Virginia water contamination 2014" and you will be given a myriad of references to the NY Times as well as the Washington Post.
          Disturbing information but at the same time eye-opening. Investigative journalists are also referenced to serve as follow-ups to the articles.

          Jason, I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. Though alarming, I hope these are helpful. Enjoy the reads.

  • SamWvu304

    You know Washington will eventually look this way!! When people start dying from the road conditions, Maybe!! OUR ROADS ARE A HAZARD!! People are dying because of them. Our Safety must not be off concern!! BUT We can't let those poor three eyed fish get poisoned. God bless our state!

  • What needs to happen

    First thing that needs to happen........get rid of Paul Mattox and shake up all management at DOH. This would definitely be approved by DOH employees who suffer from low morale and are constantly beat down.

    • jay

      What needs to happen get rid of mattox talk to kristi goodman she worked for mattox she knows whts going on up there earl ray needs busted to

  • Guardian

    This water issue gives the governor and legislature the "air cover" to kick the can down the pothole filled road.

    Folks, we are damn poorly served by our elected representatives. The roads in WV are by far - not even a close comparison - the worst I have ever driven upon. Just cross the border into any of our neighboring states and you'll find much better roads - they aren't perfect there, but they're much better than in WV.

    I lived in MI for awhile and I thought their roads were bad, but they're utopia compared to WV roads.

    This problem needs to be address NOW. Not next session and we can't wait on the Feds because let's face it - Washington is not in the frame of mind to do anything. What's makes Mattox think in the world of political gridlock that is Washington, DC, that they will do anything meaningful on roads???

    • WV Guru

      There are few problems that can't be solved by money. My solution would be to tax those folks that used the highways. One, increase the gasoline tax by 50%, double the vehicle license fee, and increase the property tax by 10%. All of it to be put in the Road Fund. After a couple of years, increase the rates if necessary. Problem solved.

      • Whatamoroon

        WV Guru, do us all a favor and never run for public office. Your solution does nothing to address those who tear up the roads driving overweight coal trucks. Instead you want us regular Joe's to foot the bill. By the way, property taxes are already sky high thanks to the many different school levies the county school boards have forced down our throats.

        • WV Guru

          I see you understand the individual's underlying want for Government... Get someone else to pay for what you want!
          Just a note, mor==on is with one o. If you are going to be one, learn to spell it right.

          Jerry_D I believe that a lot of the potholes occur from the freezing/thawing of springs that are paved over. Just filling them only works for a while and then they are are a hole again

        • Jerry_D

          Overweight coal trucks??? 99% can't get off of mine property without going across a set of scales that are linked with the DOT! So that excuse is getting old!

          Potholes are created by the thawing/re-freezing effect!

  • Mountainman

    Well Hell..... I suppose it's too much to to ask for our elected officials to do more than one thing at a damn time.

  • Aaron

    Was the Blue Ribbon Commission anything more than a charade chaired by individuals directly effected by transportation funding who traveled the state under the guise of seeking out ideas for funding but in essence utilized each meeting to inform those in attendance that infrastructure is deteriorating and the only options of which to improve the infrastructure was in one form or another a tax increase?

    • Frustrated!!

      The "Pabst" blue ribbon committee representative from Randolph county is a retired state policeman, now county commissioner who, I found out, attended several political fundraisers for our illustrious governor. What, if I may be so bold to ask, does this "politico" know about road funding? When I started with the DOH some 25 years ago, 2 employees drove vehicles home. Today there are over 24 vehicles driven in and out of the lot on a daily basis!!! Who pays for this? We all do.