CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The long-awaited report from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways is scheduled to be released Wednesday, a day after a national report said West Virginia has some of the worst roads in the nation.
The Blue Ribbon panel, appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in 2013, finished its report in December of that year but has held off releasing the information. That will change Wednesday. Contractors Association of West Virginia President Mike Clowser doesn’t expect any surprises.
“I think probably everybody has seen what’s going to be in the final report, but I think it will hopefully give a roadmap on some of the needs and most importantly some of the recommendations so we can use to start addressing those needs,” Clowser said.
Previously released information said $750 million a year would be needed to maintain the current highway system with as much as $1 billion needed annually for additional maintenance and construction.
Clowser said the evidence continues to pile up that something must be done. A new report released Tuesday by TRIP, a transportation research group, said nearly 30 percent of major rural roads in the state were in poor condition in 2013. TRIP also cited a high fatality rate on state highways along with bridges that have structural problems. Clowser said the TRIP report and the Blue Ribbon panel’s work serve as a reminder of what the state faces.
“West Virginia’s infrastructure is facing a major funding crisis and if left unresolved is going to continue to deteriorate at an accelerated and alarming rate,” Clowser predicted.
Federal funding continues to be stagnant. Congress hasn’t taken any aggressive steps toward supplying more funding. Clowser said none of West Virginia’s surrounding states are waiting around.
“In the year and a half that we’ve been looking at this (Blue Ribbon) report all of our surrounding states have taken action. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Maryland have all created new funding revenues or accelerated their funding mechanisms to upgrade their roads and bridges,” Clowser said.
Gov. Tomblin did not propose any major highway issues during the last legislative session. State lawmakers also failed to pass any significant bills. Clowser said it’s time for bold action as has happened in other states.
“If we do not want to see our system continue to deteriorate we’re going to have to follow suit,” he said.
The Blue Ribbon report is expected to be released by Wednesday afternoon.