Maintaining Bridges, Highways in W.Va.

State officials are right in explaining that when a highway bridge is rated as substandard, it does not necessarily mean it is unsafe. Of West Virginia Division of Highways inspectors believe a span is dangerous, they shut it down. Often reports that large numbers of bridges are not adequate mean only that they cannot carry the bigger, heavier trucks that are more common today.

Still, a recent Federal Highway Administration report on bridges throughout the country should be of concern. It concluded that 1,444 bridges in West Virginia, about one-fifth of the total, are in poor condition. Of that number, 115 spans are in Brooke, Hancock, Marshall, Ohio, Tyler or Wetzel counties.

The $1.6 billion “Roads to Prosperity” program, along with a major secondary road repair campaign, will take care of a few of the bad bridges. But it is plain that years of neglect and failure to fund adequate maintenance have taken their toll. Both to ensure all bridges in West Virginia are in good condition and that highways leading to and from them are adequate, more attention to long-term funding needs to be paid by state legislators.

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