Wetzel County state senator pushes Justice on roads

WHEELING — West Virginia Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, thinks now is the time to push for roads projects, as the state looks at starting $2.8 billion in highway construction during the next four years.

Clements said he will travel to Charleston this week to meet with Gov. Jim Justice, at which time he will request that improvement projects slated for state Route 2 be put on the fast track.

Clements also serves as executive director of the West Virginia Route 2/Interstate 68 Authority — which advocates for the widening of Route 2 from Parkersburg to Chester to a four-lane highway, and the extension of I-68 from north central West Virginia westward to the Ohio Valley.

He said four major improvement projects have been proposed for Route 2, but later were put on the back burner by the West Virginia Division of Highways amid state funding problems:

• An $80 million project to widen Route 2 to four lanes from Proctor in Wetzel County to Kent in Marshall County;

• A $30 million project to widen the highway to four lanes from Kent to Franklin in Marshall County;

• An $11 million project to relocate Route 2 through New Cumberland in Hancock County; and

• A $36 million project to reconstruct Route 2 to five lanes through Wood County.

Clements believes the time frame for these projects should be accelerated as an ethane cracker plant has been proposed across the river in Ohio, and expansion of Route 2 would permit West Virginia to take advantage of resulting development opportunities.

“There’s the potential for downstream development,” he said. “Too often, we’ve been reactive in these situation, and at this time, we need to be proactive and get this road built. It frees up some land for development.”

None of the proposed projects are presently on the six-year plan for the state, according to Clements.

“We’ve been told they are on standby by the state — and if somebody were interested in buy property, they would do them then,” he said. “But I don’t think we can wait for someone to say that they want to buy. There are too many good sites on the other side of the river in Ohio.”

Clements’ meeting with Justice comes as West Virginia prepares for an Oct. 7 special election to decide a constitutional amendment pertaining to road bonds. Voters will be asked to give the West Virginia Legislature authority to issue $1.6 billion in bonds over the next four years, and this money would be used to pay the debt service on about $2.8 billion in proposed highway projects across the state.

(King can be contacted at jking@theintelligencer.net)

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