MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Thousands of West Virginia’s roads need repair, and many of them appear on lists multiple times for a varying degree of reasons.
That should be motivation enough for Gov. Jim Justice to sign H.B. 3044, according to Del. John Williams, D-Monongalia.
“It’s still sitting on the Governor’s desk,” he told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM in Morgantown. “And it will make it so these moneys are handed out in a fair way — certainly fair for Monongalia County so we finally get our fair share. I think that’s a pretty good start, and I certainly hope the Governor signs that bill.”
Monongalia County, perhaps the epicenter of road maintenance complaints along with its neighor Preston County, contributed more than 150 roads to the master list.
“Hopefully, the Governor is serious about getting something done,” Williams said. “It sickens me that we have such a long list of roads that are in such a dilapidated, debilitated state like that.”
H.B. 3044, passed 97-2 in the House of Delegates and 33-0 in the State Senate, codifies the DOH funding formula into state law while simultaneously offering a bigger piece of the pie to counties that see more road traffic.
Monongalia County, for example, has experienced an approximate population growth of 9.7 percent since the 2010 census. Their neighbors in Preston County — flush with their own road woes — have experienced an approximate population growth in that same span of less than one percent.
“Every single year (the DOH) just do an across-the-board one percent increase for every single county,” Williams said. “That’s not equitable when Monongalia County might have experienced a three percent increase in population and therefore a three percent increase in traffic. Whereas, maybe another county saw a five percent decrease in traffic because they are losing population, yet each county gets the same percentage of increase. That’s not fair.”
Admittedly, Williams said H.B. 3044 wasn’t a silver bullet. But, with the Governor still deliberating on a significant number of bills that require his signature, Williams said the bill is part of a necessary piecemeal approach to getting road maintenance under control.
“Certainly we need to pay our DOH workers more because we have such an employee shortage on that end of things,” Williams said. “But it would be a heck of a good start to fixing what I feel are the most dilapidated roads in the state of West Virginia.”
Another part of the piecemeal approach, Williams suggested, is adding roads to “the call” for the education special session expected to be held later this year.
He’s also willing to listen for more specifics following Gov. Justice’s rollout of a funding plan for road maintenance earlier this month.
“I agree with dedicating some of the road bond money to secondary road maintenance,” he said. “Past that, I would need to see a more specific plan before I could say whether or not I’m in favor.”
Gov. Justice has until midnight Wednesday to make a decision on the additional bills, including H.B. 3044.