Thrasher: Too little, too late

Challenger blasts Justice for response to ‘problem we got into a long time ago’

OFFERING HIS OWN PLAN — Woody Thrasher, a Republican candidate for governor, holds a press conference Tuesday criticizing Gov. Jim Justice’s road maintenance program. -- Steven Allen Adams

NITRO — Standing alongside state Route 25 near downtown Nitro, a road filled with holes and patchwork leading to an on-ramp for Interstate 64, Republican candidate for governor Woody Thrasher criticized Gov. Jim Justice for waiting until three years into his term to address secondary road maintenance.

Thrasher held a press conference Tuesday to lay out a plan for keeping West Virginia’s more than 34,000 miles of secondary roads maintained.

“I thought it was important that if you’re running for governor and thinking about how to solve the state’s problems you need to come forth and say this is how I’d approach this particular problem,” Thrasher said.

The Thrasher campaign chose Nitro as its backdrop after Mayor David Casebolt took to Twitter July 3 to update his constituents about a meeting he and city officials had with the state Division of Highways regarding the condition of Route 25.

“When you look at the condition of the roadway, this is what is to be expected,” Thrasher said, pointing to Route 25 behind him. “I’m actually sorry to tell you that a lot of places, and I told the mayor earlier, a lot of places in West Virginia would be thrilled to have this quality of road because on many roads in West Virginia, they’re borderline impassable.”

Thrasher said the problem is statewide, pointing to states of emergency called by Marshall, Hancock and Preston counties.

“This is a problem we got into a long time ago. We simply did not dedicate the resources to road maintenance, particularly to primary and secondary highways — those highways primarily funded with state dollars. We simply did not give them the level of attention for maintenance that was required,” Thrasher said

Co-founder of a multi-million-dollar engineering, construction and design firm, Thrasher said he was no stranger to highway projects.

“I can tell you that for the folks who have been in this industry for a long time, it’s no surprise,” Thrasher said. “It’s not complicated to maintain a roadway. It’s about drainage, drainage and drainage.”

While Thrasher did not specifically name where funds for any road program would come from, Justice’s use of nearly $150 million surplus tax collections was only a short-term solution, he said. He also cautioned against diverting any money from the Roads to Prosperity projects as previously suggested by Justice early in the year.

“I think it is very very important not to divert monies from Roads to Prosperity, which we’ll be paying for over the next 30 years,” Thrasher said. “That makes no sense at all.”

According to the DOH website, more than 4,000 miles of roads have been ditched and bladed, and more than 64,000 tons of patching have been completed between March 16 and May 19. The website, which was supposed to be updated weekly, doesn’t have any current numbers.

Mike Lukach, campaign manager for Justice, said Justice has made a lot of progress on roads while his predecessors let the roads deteriorate.

“Governor Justice inherited a mess with the road system in West Virginia and from day one pushed for a $915 million road bond to fix our roads,” Lukach said. “There is still a lot of work to do but taking cheap shots isn’t going to get us there. Under Governor Justice’s leadership we have repaired more miles of roads than any governor in recent history and he’s not going to rest until every road in the state is the best in the country.”

(Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.)