CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Maintenance work on and along West Virginia highways has outpaced paving work this summer, according to state Highways Commissioner Jimmy Wriston.
“We’re behind on paving,” Wriston said. “The contracting industry is facing the same issues that we face, trying to get people and get them certified. They’re a little slow at getting their investments made and getting their equipment in.”
The state Division of Highways awards contracts for most paving jobs while routine maintenance, which has been a major focus during the past four months, is handled within the 10 DOH districts.
Wriston said he’s hopeful the needed paving work can get done.
“We’re working with them (paving contractors). They are great partners. We’re all going to get up to full capacity as fast as we can and we’re going to to catch up,” he said.
According to Wriston, the hiring of needed DOH workers is better now that it has in a long time. He said the agency has made “great strides” in filling vacancies quickly but there are pockets where more workers are needed.
“Right now I’m focusing on Mon (Monongalia) County and Preston County to get some folks up there,” Wriston said.
Preston County was the first county to declare a state of emergency because of road conditions while Monongalia County leaders have also been vocal about the shape of secondary roads.
Wriston said the DOH recently put out the purchase order contract option that will be useful in some districts.
“This will allow them to use contractors to do some of the maintenance work if we get behind in a certain area,” he said.
Maintenance work in those two counties and others has advanced greatly in the last few months. What some called as 10-year backlog in maintenance jobs will be cut in half by next summer, Wriston predicted.
The DOH unveiled dozens of new pieces of equipment last week. There will be 280 new machines and vehicles distributed throughout the 10 districts by this fall.
According to the agency the new equipment includes 20 Gradalls, 60 tandem-axle dump trucks, 60 single-axle dump trucks, 20 F-550 dump trucks, 23 DOH-grade mowers, 11 cranes, 8 pavers, 2 brine trailers, and 75 crew cab pickup trucks.
Wriston said they will take steps to make sure the equipment lasts a long time.
“We will have regularly scheduled crews that will go out from our Buckhannon maintenance headquarters to the districts to undercoat the equipment once a year so it lasts a long, long time,” Wriston said.