CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Finance Committee today passed out three bills that are part of Gov. Jim Justice’s highways package.

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State Transportation Secretary Tom Smith

Taken together, the bills would be considered tools for the state Department of Transportation to build and maintain the state’s infrastructure. The bills now go to the full Senate.

The first bill would expand the state’s ability to enter into public-private partnerships for highways projects. The second would remove financial limitations on design-build projects.

And the third would increase the amount of authorized federal Grant Anticipation Notes for which DOH may apply. Those are commonly called Garvee bonds, and they are leveraged against anticipated federal highways dollars.

All three bills passed relatively quickly and with only a few questions — mostly about how public-private partnerships work and why there were financial limits on design-build projects in the first place.

State Transportation Secretary Tom Smith attended the meeting and answered questions from senators.

Smith said public-private partnerships have become common elsewhere.

“I think you will see this has been very well received around the country,” Smith said.

Some senators asked why there was a cap on design-build projects in the first place.

Senator Robert Plymale answered that one, saying that was a cautionary measure when the practice first started in 2006.

“We’ve had 11 years in addressing this,” Plymale said. “We know what design-build is and what it does. The limitations were put on just because it was somewhat of a new process.”

Senate Finance two days ago passed another key part of Justice’s highways package, this one raising the gas tax and DMV fees.

The same day, House Finance passed the same three bills that Senate Finance passed today. Those bills were headed for consideration on the House floor.

 

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