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.