MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice returned to Marshall County Wednesday a month after he was ambushed with questions about secondary road conditions.
Justice brought state Transportation Secretary Byrd White and Division of Highways Commissioner Jimmy Wriston with him and they were armed with numbers on how much work has been done in Marshall County in a month.
“In the last 30 days we ditched and bladed 203 miles,” Justice said. “We’ve had 166 tons of patching and related maintenance.
Justice said other work has included bank stabilization efforts and the laying of 469 feet of drainage pipe.
According to Wriston, some of the counties worst roadside slips will be part of a DOH contact letting before the end of the month.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) May 22, 2019
Justice visited Marshall County on April 22 to make a presentation regarding $1 million dedicated for multiple local broadband and wastewater improvement projects, when questions for those attending started to focus on road conditions.
“Just give me this summer,” the governor said. “Just give me the time that I am now dialed completely into the secondary roads situation.”
The Marshall County Commission declared a state of emergency earlier in April in hopes of getting the state’s attention. Delegate Joe Canestraro, D-Marshall, invited Justice to look at the roads, an invitation the governor did not take up.
“It really helps me being here,” Justice said at that April 22 event. “I see that the program maybe we have in place isn’t going to be adequate from what you’re saying, and I see there is a mega-emergency here. I thought I knew that, but I can see it in your faces and in the tone of your voices that it’s worse than what I thought.”
Justice told lawmakers and community members gathered at DOH headquarters in Moundsville Wednesday the roads were bad when he took office in January 2017.
“These roads didn’t get in this shape in two years. I’m not the enemy here, I’m trying to fix them,” Justice said.
The governor once again criticized former governor, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin for selling off road equipment when he was in office, something Manchin has continually denied. Justice also criticized, but to a lesser extent, the administration of former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the lack of highway work that took place in those years. Justice said he’s taking a different approach.
“We’re finding money and finding more money and more money and more money,” Justice said.
The legislature approved another $54 million for secondary road work in a supplemental budget bill from Justice earlier this week. The total coming from the one-day special session was $88 million. Justice said it’s actually more than that.
“It’s really right at $100 million. We already had x-number of dollars appropriated to go into the summer but now we can even put in more dollars.” Justice said.
According to Justice, only funding for the opioid epidemic should top highway dollars when it comes to the state’s surplus funds.
“Other than that, in my opinion, we need to put every other available dollar into roads,” he said.
Justice said said he supports continued discussions with the oil and natural gas industry about their contribution to road repairs in northern West Virginia.