State Should Repair Roads

Marshall County commissioners’ reluctance to become involved in highway maintenance is appropriate. It spotlights an ongoing problem that is getting worse, however – the state’s shortage of money for roads and bridges.

News that the county is receiving more money from the gas drilling industry prompted Marshall County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Knuth to suggest some of it be put toward repairing roads damaged by heavy gas industry trucks.

But Commissioner Brian Schambach told our reporter that would not be a good idea. Public roads are the state’s responsibility, he noted, adding commissioners are willing to help county residents work with gas companies to get damaged highways repaired.

Obviously, commissioners should put pressure on gas companies or anyone else damaging Marshall County roads. So should the state Department of Transportation. Some of the worst damage to area roads has been caused by heavy trucks moving to and from well sites.

Responsibility for highway maintenance was laid solely on the state many years ago. In some areas, including Ohio County, there has been discussion of local funding of new roads for economic development purposes.

But going back to even some county responsibility for maintenance would be a bad policy, simply because of the relatively limited funds local governments have for the purpose.

In Marshall County, the idea of locally funded maintenance work was prompted by news the county’s share of oil and gas severance tax proceeds has increased by $358,000 during the past three years. But that is a drop in the pothole when it comes to highway maintenance.

Clearly, the state should continue to handle repair and preventive maintenance tasks on West Virginia’s 38,598 miles of public roads. But funds for the purpose are far short of needs.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and lawmakers had full plates during the just-completed legislative session. Problems such as that in Marshall County should spur them to make highway funding a top priority for the remainder of the year.