Contractor rep says quick start possible for secondary road projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “We could go to work next week.”

That’s what Mike Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, is saying about Governor Jim Justice’s new plans to pool money from a numbers of sources to fund secondary roads maintenance.

“One of our members, they’re opening their asphalt plant Monday,” Clowser said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The majority of asphalt plants, he predicted, would be operating within the next two weeks.

“We could have our guys to work next week on the vast majority of these projects either through purchase orders or getting the projects designed very quickly and put out on the street as advertised bids,” Clowser said.

His organization represents private contractors that could be hired to supplement work from crews with the Division of Highways.

What happens next is largely up to Byrd White, interim highways chief, and his DOH team.

Earlier this week, Governor Justice named White, his longtime associate, to replace former state Transportation Secretary Tom Smith who was fired on Sunday.

Governor Justice is out with a new secondary roads plan that includes $240 million to shore up local roads.

As envisioned, that money will come from diverting some funding from the $915 million in bond money West Virginia has already drawn down for “Roads to Prosperity” projects, using some “pay-as-you-go” revenue that had been intended to pay down future road bond debt and applying a portion of state general revenue surplus.

Justice also talked about new investments in machinery and in hiring hundreds of temporary DOH workers for spring and summer paving with some of them potentially staying on permanently.

“I told the people of this state we were going to fix the damn roads. That’s exactly what I told ’em. I haven’t changed my philosophy in any way, shape or fashion,” Justice previously said.

Senator Charles Clements (R-Wetzel, 02), chair of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he is largely on board for the plans. He does not support to taking bond money for core maintenance work.

“What we can do is take some of the increased funding that we’ve got that we have received, before we have to start paying off bonds, and put that money into our secondary roads and paving,” Clements said.

“Do I think we can get it done? Yes, I think we can get it done.”

This spring, some leftover projects from 2018 await paving crews.

“The heavy rains that we had in West Virginia, we had record rainfall last year in West Virginia, that delayed completion of some of the projects and, probably the first thing our members are going to do, is try to work through some of that backlog,” Clowser said.

“We applaud the Governor for addressing highways. Will it work? I don’t see any reason why it won’t.”

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