BECKLEY, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice brought his “Roads to Prosperity” tour to Beckley Wednesday evening.
The Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center was full of southern West Virginia residents wanting to learn how the proposed road bond will benefit them. Justice brought several state leaders with him to help explain his message before taking the mic.
Mike Clowser from the Contractors Association of West Virginia stressed the importance of roads. He used the The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve as an example of what can be accomplished with strong infrastructure. The Summit sits along U.S. Route 19, a four lane road through Fayette County.
“That would not be here if we did not have a safe and modern transportation system,” Clowser said. “We are whole-heartedly in support of the Roads to Prosperity amendment. We see it as a way to improve the quality of life.”
Other leaders in attendance included Steve Roberts of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation Tom Smith and Dale Lee of the West Virginia Education Association. Lee shared he is concerned about the future of the state if the road bond is not passed.
“Businesses will want to come. This is about our kids, it’s about our state, it’s about moving forward in this state and growing like we should.”
A common belief throughout southern West Virginia is that the road bond focuses primarily on other parts of the state, leaving the region in the dark. Justice refuted this thought by sharing the amount proposed for several southern counties:
- Wyoming County: $177.6 million
- Raleigh County: $132.4 million
- Mercer County: $116 million
- McDowell County: $32.8 million
- Greenbrier County: $25.7 million
- Monroe County: $9.6 million
- Summers County: $9.3 million
Justice reinstated his focus on southern West Virginia in a later interview with MetroNews affiliate WJLS: The Voice of Beckley.
“There is absolutely no reason for the people of southern West Virginia to feel like they’re gonna sit back in line and wait, while others move to the front of the line. That’s just not gonna happen.”
At Wednesday’s town hall meeting, Justice specifically mentioned the Coalfields Expressway. The recently constructed four-lane road running through Raleigh and Fayette Counties ends suddenly west of Sophia. Justice said the road bond will pay for the next section to be completed connecting Slab Fork and Mullens. The final stretch of the highway would run from Mullens to Welch. Justice has previously said that portion will be funded by the time Turnpike Authority bonds are renewed in 2019.
“Southern West Virginia is going to be protected, southern West Virginia is going to be rewarded and southern West Virginia is going to grow,” Justice said ending the meeting.
The special election for the road bond will be held on October 7.