Doing a better job on the state’s roads
Gov. Jim Justice plans to raise $240 million — somehow — to repair secondary roads throughout West Virginia. Even if he does, it will be no more than a partial, temporary fix.
In fact, it is easy to recognize that the entire $240 million could be spent right here in the Northern Panhandle. It simply will not do all that needs accomplished in all 55 counties.
Like many other states, West Virginia does not have adequate revenue to maintain secondary roads. Increases in various taxes, including those on vehicle fuel, were adopted last year — but much of the proceeds will have to be used to pay off $1.6 billion in bonds voters approved for the “Roads to Prosperity” initiative. Most of that money will be spent on new construction.
Though the need for better maintenance of secondary roads has been apparent for years, legislators and governors have not found enough money to keep up with the task. At times, resources devoted to maintenance have been reduced from year to year.
It has been suggested that the state needs to devote hundreds of millions of dollars more to road maintenance each year. In 2017, the Moody’s credit rating service estimated West Virginia had a $4 billion backlog of maintenance and repair projects on existing highways and bridges. Things have not improved since then.
Before thought is given to big new tax increases, however, state officials should ensure existing resources are being utilized as effectively as possible.
One way or another, however, a way to handle more maintenance needs to be found. The $240 million Justice envisions using this year will not be enough to correct every secondary road deficiency — and it is a one-time project. We need to do better before some of our roads deteriorate beyond the point of being repaired.