CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Transportation Secretary Byrd White says the state Division of Highways is off to a good start in improving the conditions of the state’s secondary roads even though there hasn’t been a lot of paving yet.
“People are hunting for asphalt but there’s absolutely no reason, no reason at all to go put asphalt on a road that doesn’t have good ditches that doesn’t have a good base. It’s a waste of money. It’s been done for years and it’s a waste of money,” Byrd said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the state capitol with Gov. Jim Justice.
Justice, wearing an orange DOH safety vest, praised what’s taken place since he ordered more emphasis on secondary roads back on March 16. Byrd unveiled a chart that said, among other things, more than 2,000 road miles had been ditched and bladed in the past month, more than 148,000 feet of pipe culverts repaired and more than 153,000 employee hours on other maintenance.
Acting state Highways Commissioner Jim Wriston told reporters the DOH has “never had an April like this represents, ever.”
“The routine isn’t good enough,” Wriston said. “We’ll just keep sliding back further if we do things the same way.”
White said the paving is coming but not before the water that’s killing the roads is diverted.
“What we’re doing is trying to get the roads prepared, get ’em ready, get the water off the road, get the base fixed and then we’ll go pave them, but this is what we’re doing to get ready,” White said.
White has told state Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy he’ll need $80 million between now and the end of the fiscal year, June 30, to pay for the work.
Hardy, who was also at the news conference, laid out how the money would be found in the current budget. He said the DOH located $35 million for realignment in its own budget, another $25 million would from other areas of the state budget that lawmakers will be asked to direct toward the DOH in supplemental appropriations. Hardy said the other $20 million to $25 million would come from General Obligation bonds the state sold last year for the Roads to Prosperity project.
Hardy said funding decisions beyond June 30 haven’t been made.
“We haven’t gone beyond this fiscal year,” Hardy said. “I’d anticipate that over the next few weeks that I’ll be working with our state budget director, our bond folks and Highways to determine where we go from July 1st forward.”
White said they’ve done what Gov. Justice has asked them to do and in the long run taking care of the base problems on the secondary roads will be financially beneficial.
“This is going to save the taxpayers of West Virginia a lot of money because their roads won’t fall apart next year,” White said.