Panhandle Members Added to Committee

WHEELING – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin this week named three additional members to his Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways, and two are from the Northern Panhandle.

The new members include Don Rigby, executive director of the Regional Economic Development Authority in Wheeling, and Charles Clements of New Martinsville, executive director of the West Virginia Route 2 and Interstate 68 Authority.

Also added to the committee was Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Bluefield Chamber of Commerce.

Clements said he attended the committee’s first meeting in Charleston, and he believes the major task before committee members is to find funding mechanisms for state highways.

“I think the main objective is to boost highway revenue,” Clements said. “Revenue has declined while the cost of construction has gone through the ceiling.”

He added it is unlikely he will get the chance to push for extension of Interstate 68 through the Ohio Valley, as the committee will not have the authority to determine how the highway funds will be spent.

Clements was pleased that Rigby also was named to the committee, and he added Rigby has “great insight” into the highway needs of the state.

Messages left for Rigby seeking comment were not immediately returned.

The state Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways was created Aug. 14 through an executive order issued by Tomblin. The commission is charged with studying the condition and needs of the state’s transportation system and developing a long-term strategic plan of action. Their plan is to include funding options for the maintenance, construction and expansion of the state’s roadway system.

When Tomblin made his initial appointments to the committee, local leaders expressed concern that the Northern Panhandle was not represented.