LEGISLATIVE LOOKAHEAD – Funding Sought for Highway Infrastructure

Transportation in the Eastern Panhandle has been a headache that the legislature hopes to alleviate.

This session, West Virginia legislators will seek ways to come up with funding for the state’s highway infrastructure, said Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, chairman of the West Virginia Senate Transportation Committee, in a panel discussion on transportation Monday. Beach said he suggested officials try to come up with funding at the local level.

“I would go to the home-rule aspect of allowing communities to determine the direction they would like to with transportation,” Beach said.

Areas with transportation issues, such as Morgantown, are introducing a bill to the county commission that would give local government authority to fund transportation problems, Beach said. Morgantown wants to create a home-rule package and go through a process detailing plans and how the municipality would pay for the roads, Beach said.

“If local counties take this initiative on, it relieves some of the pressure that is on the Department of Highways,” Beach said. “Does it set a precedent? Not necessarily because the piece of legislation does not deal exclusively with roads.”

Beach said West Virginia is not currently working with Virginia or Maryland on a project to ease congestion on U.S. 340. West Virginia will continue to work with Maryland to ensure there is no reduction in MARC train service for commuters. “The Maryland Department of Transportation provides a service to us that really they don’t have to,” Beach said.

“In West Virginia, our problem is that we don’t have a whole lot to bring to the table as far as subsidies and more transit or better service. They have been very willing to work with us.”

Across that state, the DOH will no longer split the funding used for repair work and construction of new roads.

Instead, the agency will allocate 70 percent to maintenance and 30 percent to building new roadways, which will not affect construction of the Corridor H.

Corridor H will allow for more convenient access to other parts of the state and increase revenue for the state.

West Virginia maintains the sixth largest highway system in the nation. The cost to bring roads up to par is about $1 billion, said Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor of the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Highway Commission.