Road work needs to be taken care of

This past week, representatives of the West Virginia Department of Transportation were in our area as part of a public workshop to receive comment on a series of alternative proposals for improvements to state Route 2 through New Cumberland.

In particular, the area identified as Ridge Avenue, as well as the section of the roadway traveling down Station Hill into the city’s downtown, have been a major concern for many years. Increasing traffic of heavy trucks brought on by the growth of the oil and gas industry in our region have placed more pressure on the roadways, which haven’t always received the best attention anyway.

Add to that a recent land slip on “The Ridge” and fears of additional slips nearby and the concern grows.

Many of those at the meeting this past Tuesday seemed to prefer the plan labeled as Alternative 5A. This proposal would actually create a new roadway bypassing the upper portion of Route 2 in New Cumberland, allowing the majority of traffic to avoid that area entirely.

That option, according to the list of alternatives, would cost in the neighborhood of $16 million, although those costs are only estimates.

The other four options, which focus on making adjustments to the Madison Street and Chester Street intersection, would cost between $4 million and $7 million, the state estimates.

This project, in addition to be discussed by officials and residents in Hancock County for more than a decade, was included as a selling point for the passage of Gov. Jim Justice’s Roads to Prosperity bond program. In fact, it was one of the top projects listed for Hancock and Brooke counties.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as if all of the funds originally used to budget this project for the Roads to Prosperity program are going to be available.

Many of these projects have had to be either reconfigured or scratched once state officials began receiving bids which came in over budget. Such an instance took place in Wheeling, where the state had to redesign its plans for improvements to I-70, including repairs to a series of bridges along the interstate highway.

For the New Cumberland project, the state originally listed a cost of $11 million. According to some of our local legislators, though, DOH officials are now stipulating only around $4 million.

Those from the DOH in town for the meeting seemed to indicate this was the case, saying that while they understand the desires of residents, they have to work within the budget given to them. That tells me, there is no intention for them to go with Alternative 5A. Maybe I’m wrong, but when it comes to the government, at any level, they usually try to go with the least costly option, and spread their funds out to other projects in the meantime.

I understand there is a limited amount of money, and thousands of miles of roadway in West Virginia to care for. But, that also is the problem with government these days. There’s a tendency to make pie-in-the-sky promises to get the votes they want, and then officials don’t understand why residents (read voters) get angry when they see the backtracking begin.

Roads to Prosperity was never going to address all of the projects it listed as a priority, no matter how much the state brings in through the sale of the bonds associated with the program.

But the New Cumberland project goes beyond any bond sale or intersection realignment. You are now talking about a growing safety issue. Someone needs to find the money to address it.

(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)