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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  • Sick&Tired

    Why all the talk about more revenue when all we have to do is quit giving all our money away to those that won't contribute at all.They say cut Social Security but never mention Welfare.

  • Pensfan

    I've been driving for 38 yrs and pot holes have been a problem EVERY year at this time. Can't see the annual occurrance of this phenomenon going away regardless of what is done to our roads... Really a non story as far as I'm concerned

    • SimpleNone

      This is the first time ever that I have to slow down to 10mph on a 55mph bi-way every half mile. Not sure where you live, but sounds like you have it made, it's terrible up north.

    • SimpleNone

      This is the first time ever that I have to slow down to 10mph one a 55mph bi-way every half mile. Not sure where you live, but sounds like you have it made, it's terrible up north.

  • smokey

    Why was the commission's recommendations not even discussed during the legislative session? We had the coldest January in 36 years and the worst snowstorm in 25 years. This was when the legislative session was held. What did our elected leaders think would happen when the thaw came? Why do they not lead? Oh yeah, I forgot we got a new state song. Have a great day.

    • Jeremy Bauserman

      No one wants to be for higher taxes in an election year. Especially not with control of the WV House of Delegates expected to be very close after this November's General Election.

  • jay zoom

    put a 5% food tax back in place use it strickly for roads. don't know how they would divvy it up county be county but it would have to be fair for all counties.

    • Jonus Grumby

      A food tax has little to do with road maintenance.

      • Aaron

        It does if it is directed to infrastructure by law.

  • The bookman

    If we are ever to move forward as a state, we must at some point SOLVE our problems instead of addressing them in a minimal way. As the Captain explained, potholes and winter are correlative. My preference would be to wait for the hot mix to properly fill the potholes, but hey, that issue pales in comparison to the real infrastructure funding shortfall we have at DOT/DOH.

    The longer we wait to act in finding a revenue stream or control our expenditures, whether it's the State Budget or the Road Fund, the more painful the resulting decisions will be. It amazes me the vacuum of leadership at the State Level. When provided clear concise problems, along with a list of possible solutions, the Leaders in our Government set on their hands and fail to take action. The continued fear of making the right choices will be our downfall if we don't force our Government to stand up and take action.

    • Concerned

      It's probably because the people who are getting elected are the ones who do nothing. If you try to do something in this state any more, you're going to be painted as irresponsible regarding the budget. Especially by the author of this commentary and his "news" agency. News flash, nothing's free. If we're cutting budgets, which we are, and cutting taxes, which we have been doing, and saving for a rainy day fund, well, not really going to be much left to fix things.

  • mntnman

    Public works work. They do so many good things, why aren't we doing them more? They create jobs...good ones. They improve our infrastructure...better for the economy. They improve the tax base...more money to fix things. When we build and fix our "house", it benefits us all.

    So, we need our governments to take a long hard look at what they do with our tax dollars, and they need to divert as much as they can to infrastructure. Roads, bridges, water and sewer, schools. We all benefit, we all gain, our economy improves, our tax base grows. So look at current revenues, look at alternatives, but do something.

    I have yet to figure out why some object to public works. Good to see Hoppy is on board with it. Now if we can just get those who govern to do so. Wait...lets all hold our breathe...

  • jojo

    Why not get the drilling companies help a little more to repair the roads these heavy, heavy vehicles are destroying daily ??? Out of state dumpings at our landfills are also causing many problems with their over weight vehicles.
    These two are really causing many more problems then ever before.

  • GregG

    Potholes? Poor roads? What are you talking about? We have great roads. With all the wealth that has "trickled down" from big business we have been able to maintain our roads to the highest standards.

  • Todd

    Why is a new tax or a tax increase the answer to every problem. How about attracting some new business into this state? That would increase tax revenue. But why would any out of state company want to relocate here with the potholes and tainted water?

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, potholes have ALWAYS been a problem on WV roads. This winter season's just been a bit worse than usual.

    There's really not a whole lot anyone can do about it. Some of our roads need patching nearly every year, whether they actually GET patched or not is another matter.

    With the state in dire financial straits, there will be fewer funds available for annual pothole patching activities. The best we drivers can do for now is try to artfully dodge the potholes we encounter, at least, as much as it's possible. Other than that, what can we honestly do about the problem?

  • WhgFeeling

    EVERYONE that drives complains but no one wants to pay for the upkeep. Sometimes we must take on a little responsibility when we want nice things such as smooth roads.

  • Wirerowe

    If we want more money for road maintenance and new road construction we need to generate more road user taxes or tolls there is no other way. The dilemma is when you raise taxes tolls or fees beyond a certain point usage goes down and taxes , fees or tolls go down do not increase as much. The blue ribbon was heavy on toll increases on turnpike because 70 percent or so of the traffic is from outside the state. But it does place an extra burden on those southern counties that need to use the turnpike. Still may be the only way to go other than significant increases in taxes on gallons, mileage or weight.

  • Jim N Charleston


    You're really breakin news. Didn't read the story, but "Pot holes"? Seriously?

    In other news, WVians buy lotto tickets, cigarettes, beer, pop, bread, & milk.

    Brah you are stealing $$$$ from JR with this. Same as AROD & Pujos, give a guy a 10 year deal, the guy just goes lazy.

    I'm Jim N S Charleston

  • David McKain

    Cars and trucks wear the roads and bridges through how much weight their tires carry. The reason improvements in fuel efficiency have affected the gas tax - road maintenance formula is because they've been mostly the result of improvements in engine efficiency and aerodynamics while the vehicle weights haven't changed significantly.

    Maybe we should drop/lower the gas tax and fund improvements through a registration tax tied to GVWR (weight rating) of vehicles. An 80,000 tractor (4,444 lb/tire) imparts more road damage than a 2,500 lb compact car (625 lb/tire).

    The Blue Ribbon commission should look at how surrounding states approach road taxes and make sure that, whatever we do, drivers aren't deciding to cross the border in an attempt to save money.

    They should also make sure that, when people/corporations try to circumvent these rules to save a buck that they are vigorously prosecuted.

    • Aaron

      Very few trucks fuel in WV and even fewer are registered in WV. If you want to get taxes from trucks, you're going to have to find another way to do it. I would imagine that VA does pretty well given the amount of trucks that fuel in that state.

    • WhgFeeling

      One big problem I see with doing such a thing is that it would push the trucking industry out of the state. No not the trucks but the actual businesses could be located in a cojoining state, register trucks in said state and simply drive and hosue them in WV. Then everyone loses except the new home state.

    • Wowbagger

      Why not restructure taxes to attrach out of state business?

      The West Virginia Legislarure has never realized that if you keep taxes low you can more than make up the difference on the volume.

      • Hop'sHip

        Bagger: I'm surprised your still clinging to this. Even the old Reaganites have abandoned this argument.

  • Joe

    The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways recommendations should be implemented. The gas tax restricts needed revenue for border counties that have to compete with Virginia.

    An all of the above strategy is needed:

    • Aaron

      Why should we extend the turnpike for another 30 years to pay for what amounts to one year of infrastructure funding?