Not getting hopes up on road projects

There has been much discussion across the state in the last few weeks about the possibility of getting more repair and maintenance projects on West Virginia’s secondary roads.

Roads are an important part of modern life, and making sure they are drivable is a priority for many, including for safety and security in addition to just making sure we are able to reach our destinations.

In 2017, Gov. Jim Justice traveled the state, promoting an idea to help with some of West Virginia’s road problems. Dubbed “Roads to Prosperity,” the program identified maintenance projects on some of the state’s major highways and roadways, with voters eventually approving a constitutional amendment allowing for the sale of bonds to fund those projects.

It turned out many of those identified projects received bids at higher than had been estimated, and those which already were set to move forward had to be adjusted.

So, more than a year later, our major roads have started to receive some attention, but officials realized there wasn’t much focus on secondary roads. While Roads to Prosperity was targeting large highways, byways and throughways, the roads most of us drive on for our everyday travel, we are told, were being forgotten.

Then, a little more than a week ago, we reported on a meeting where representatives from every DOH district were summoned to Charleston to discuss the issue. That “meeting” ended up being more of a 15-minute speech from the governor where he told our state road representatives to come up with a priority list of projects in each of the state’s 55 counties. There reportedly was no discussion, and none of the DOH folks, not even cabinet-level officials, were given an opportunity to add to the “conversation.”

It really could have have been handled by an e-mail or a conference call.

The full list was released publicly early last week, with district officials dividing their suggestions by county and importance.

Hancock County alone has a list of 101 projects for the county’s secondary roads, while Brooke County has 91. Ohio County has 100 proposed road repairs. Marshall County suggested somewhere around 280. Much of the work appears to be focusing on paving, ditch work, drainage and some slide repairs, all of which I’m sure we can agree are needed on our local roadways.

In Hancock County, officials have identified slip repairs on Washington School Road and Locust Hill Road, milling and paving of Three Springs Drive and milling and paving of Pennsylvania Avenue as among the top five projects.

Brooke County has paving of Three Springs Drive, ditch and slip work on Castlemans Run, McKims Ridge and Fowlers Hill and a slip repair on Eldersville Road as the top five.

While I would love to be able to thank the state for taking these steps, I’m also not going to get my hopes up that many of those on our local lists are going to be tackled anytime in the immediate future. This isn’t a knock on our local DOH people. They do the jobs they are told, and I appreciate their work. But realistically speaking, how likely is it there is going to be funding for these projects?

The only answer anyone has been given when it comes to money for this new push is that there should be some funding from the regular roads allotment, but most of it will be coming from a plan to essentially skim off of the Roads to Prosperity funding.

I’m not a legal expert, but given those funds were specifically designated, through a constitutional amendment, on certain projects, that could be problematic for our state. We need to get more details, and less vagueness from the higher-ups, on these plan, or just get ready for an extended wait.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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