The DOT is focusing on repairing potholes along the state’s most traveled roads.

Spring officially arrives today, but winter leaves behind a reminder—pothole filled roads.   The pockmarked highways are so bad that not even the Division of Transportation tries to put up a positive spin.

“It’s the worst we’ve seen it in decades,” DOT spokesman Brent Walker told me on Metronews Talkline Wednesday.  “It’s unbelievable.”

Oh, you can believe it.  In fact, you can’t drive to work, school, the grocery store or just down the street without traversing a minefield of jagged holes and broken pavement.

“We recognize how bad it is,” Walker says.

DOT Secretary Paul Mattox has ordered maintenance crews to mount an offensive against the potholes, and he’s increased the spring patching budget from $18 million to $30 million.  But this is not an easy fix.

Many of the plants that make hot asphalt, which provides a more lasting fix, aren’t operating yet, so crews are using the “throw-and-go” method with cold patch.  Walker says that’s only a temporary solution.  “No sooner do you have that down than the vehicle tires bring it back up.”

The plethora of potholes is an indication of a more serious infrastructure issue; the state’s roads are crumbling underneath our cars and trucks.  Gas tax collections—the primary source of road funds—have leveled off because of fuel efficiency, while road building costs have risen.

West Virginians already pay 54 cents a gallon in federal and state taxes (36 cents state, 18 cents federal). That’s about a nickel higher than the national average.   It would be hard to convince West Virginians to pay more at the pump.

The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways has produced a series of recommendations, but nobody—including the Governor—paid much attention to them during the last legislative session.  The commission’s proposals include:

–Raising DMV fees ($77 million).

–Dedicating consumer sales tax collected on repairs and auto parts ($25 million).

–Keeping tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike to finance a state road bond issue of between $600 million and $1 billion.

–Finding efficiencies in highways and dedicating those savings to road construction.

The commission also suggested the state look at alternative ways of funding road work, such as following Virginia’s lead.  Last year, the Commonwealth decided to eliminate the 17.6 cents-per-gallon retail tax, replacing it with a 3.5 percent sales tax on gas at the wholesale level and imposing a slight increase in the state sales tax, with the additional revenue going to roads.

The state could also consider treating road construction and repairs like school construction: empower counties to pass their own bond issues, and then match that amount with state funds.

West Virginia is responsible for 36,000 miles of roads and over 6,900 bridges to maintain. It’s a mammoth job for a state with a small tax base.    Until public officials are willing to make the tough decisions about how to pay for the needed road work and motorists are willing accept those decisions, every spring we will see potholes as plentiful as dandelions.




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  • 2XLPatriot

    End prevailing wages, buy road paving equipment and pay state workers to do the job that we bid out to out of state companies. This cost seriously reduces available funds. Having our own equipment and training already employed state workers to do the same job would result in more money saved and funds available for more projects.

  • Hillbilly

    Where is the news here ?

  • stophating

    Cut everyone's taxes, if it's good for the economy when you do it for Jim Justice, then it should help tremendously when cut for everyone.

    Unless, it's total and complete lie that cutting taxes on billionaires actually benefits the economy. I say they should have to prove the benefits, and if they can't, they pay back taxes plus penalties!

  • DP

    GregG-According to you, Big Business is the blame for ALL of the problems in our State and Country! Sadly, due to 80+ years of INCOMPETENT/SCANDULOUS Democratic rule in WV, we have VERY FEW Big Businesses!

    I would bet ANYTHING that you have been fired (or NEVER hired) by a Big Business during your lifetime. You know, the ones that pay good wages and provide good benefits. The economy sure has been wonderful during Obummer's reign, hasn't it GregG!!!!!

  • Philly

    If your neighbors agreed to pay for a large portion of your utilities and interior/exterior home repairs just to drive up the street in front of your house would you say no, "I would rather pay more and still have you drive up my street". 76% of a WV Turnpike toll revenue is out of state or truck traffic. Leveraging the ability to raise toll $$ to distribute around the state and address needs instead of affecting 100% of tax payers with tax increases readily identifies a math equation that was left out of schools years ago.

  • Gary

    We have the 10th highest gas tax. Where does this money go for? It should be spent on the roads. These cronies didn.t want to ruffle any feathers since they're up for re-election. Send them a message. Send them home for good.

  • Buck

    The only way to clear up the water is to get the pigs out of the pond, so get out and vote.

  • Charleston

    I'd be more than happy to pitch-in and fix a few potholes in my neighborhood (I believe there a few regulars on this MB who call that collectivism), but I am afraid the local ordinance doesn't feel that I have the that right, skill level, educational background, (fill-in-the-black), to perform that task.

  • rick

    Maybe some new thinking. The State used to do a lot of it's road work with the DOH. The State crushed it's own gravel and made a lot of it's own hot mix. The DOH could start doing it's own paving to save a lot of money.

  • GobblyGook

    Simple fix. Extend the WV Turnpike from a Princeton to Charleston toll road to a Princeton to Parkersburg toll road. The Princeton to Charleston southern section with a toll booth just inside the WV border on the northbound lanes. The southbound lanes keep the toll booth at Sharon just outside of Charleston. In the northern section of Charleston to Parkersburg, have a toll booth just inside WV after entering from Ohio on I-77 southbond lanes. Northbound lanes have a toll booth just north of Charleston. Five dollars per car or two-axle vehicle per section, and $25 per any vehicle pulling a trailer or has more than two axles per section. Put toll booths on US Rt 35 entering in from Ohio and one on the northbound lane just outside of Winfield. Add $0.20 to the tax on deisel fuel, but not gasoline. Our northern neighbors should have to pitch in too, so make the section of I-79 from Clarksburg to Morgantown a toll road.

    • Wowbagger

      I'm fairly certain that converting an Interstate highway that was mostly federally funded as part of a national defense highway system to a toll road is not legal. Now if you build a road financed by municipal bonds, tolls are OK to pay off the bonds and finance maintenance.

  • Shinnston Guy

    I think it would be a worthwhile investigation for MetroNews to look at the amount of money sitting at the US Department of Transportation with WV's name on it. This funding is not being used, and I believe it is because DOT requires a contribution from the state, similar to how the counties put up some money and then ask the SBA to help funding school construction. If we have billions just sitting out there because our lackluster legislature is too busy arguing about pepperoni rolls and state songs, heads should roll.

  • No more local levys and bonds

    The state could also consider treating road construction and repairs like school construction: empower counties to pass their own bond issues, and then match that amount with state funds. This is total BS. We are already levied and bonded to the max for school bonds. No more local levy's!