Road Bond Issue Approval Important to Area
West Virginia voters will soon have the chance to vote on the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017. As someone who runs a successful manufacturing business here in the Northern Panhandle, I am emphatically urging everyone I know to vote YES on October 7.
The Northern Panhandle of West Virginia was historically one of the premier hubs of manufacturing in the United States. Factories up and down the Ohio River provided some of the best-paying jobs in the country, and our industry fueled the country’s economy. Sadly, many of those once-bustling factories have been shuttered, but the sun is beginning to shine again on our region.
The Northern Panhandle of West Virginia is ideally situated, being within a few hours’ drive of major cities like Pittsburgh, Columbus, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. From an economic development standpoint, that is ideal. The natural gas boom our area is experiencing is being felt throughout the region, and has the potential to fuel a major re-birth of manufacturing, the likes of which we have never seen. We must do everything we can to facilitate this development, and that includes making sure we have the highways and infrastructure to support economic growth.
As a businessman, I can tell you that a solid infrastructure is an essential component to success. The ability to move goods to market is the difference between a business growing and creating jobs, and a business struggling to remain open. Our area is primed for a major economic revitalization, and passing the Roads to Prosperity Amendment is one of the keys to making that happen.
The Roads to Prosperity Amendment will be a major boost for jobs and the economy in our region of the state. In the Northern Panhandle alone, nearly $300 million in highway construction is planned if the amendment passes. This would include major improvements to I-70 and W.Va. 2, including replacing the aging I-70 bridge in Wheeling.
But repairs and improvements won’t be limited to major roadways in our region. Secondary roads and bridges that have been neglected for far too long will finally receive the repairs they so desperately need.
Many of us have had our vehicles in the repair shop for damage incurred while driving on dilapidated roads, and those who have children riding school buses have all worried while buses must travel in areas that continue to fall into disrepair. The Roads to Prosperity Amendment will help address these severe problems.
A total of 46 projects, from Hancock County to Marshall County, are planned if the Roads to Prosperity Amendment is approved by the voters. Thousands of jobs will be created and our roads and highways will be in much better condition. These improvements will benefit everyone in the Northern Panhandle.
In order to begin improving roads and highways in West Virginia, our Legislature has already enacted an increase on the gasoline tax, raised DMV fees, and increased the tolling capacity of the Turnpike Authority. Nobody, including myself, likes to see taxes and fees go up, but the reality is that this had to be done in order to begin improving our roads. Thankfully, these increases are the dedicated funding source for the Roads to Prosperity Amendment, which means your YES vote on October 7 will not change your taxes.
The Roads to Prosperity Amendment will allow West Virginia to accomplish major highway projects that are needed for our 21st century economy. This is a better approach than “pay-as-you-go,” which will leave us as we have been, making minor repairs that are not the major changes needed, nor the safest.
On October 7, we have the chance to lay the foundation for major economic development in our region. I encourage you to head to the polls and vote YES for the Roads to Prosperity Amendment.
Joe Eddy is president and chief executive officer of Eagle Manufacturing Company in Wellsburg.