Keeping W.Va. Highways Safe

Nearly $3 billion in state and federal funds are to be used in what Gov. Jim Justice touts as a “Roads to Prosperity” initiative. Much of the funding is earmarked for construction of new roads and bridges.

We need to be thinking more about another campaign involving highways. We’ll call it “Roads for Safety.”

For many years, the West Virginia Division of Highways has lacked enough money to handle routine maintenance chores. Even when major needs such as slip repairs become evidence, DOH officials have to prioritize.

As the picture at right, sent to us by a Wetzel County resident, shows, the result has been too many roads, many in rural areas, that simply are not safe.

“Berming” — that is, using material to fill in berms beside pavement to avoid potentially hazardous drop-offs — used to be a regularly scheduled procedure. It has been ignored on too many highways, sometimes with predictable consequences.

Just last week, a Marshall County school bus slipped off the side of a road near Cameron, causing the vehicle to tip over. One student had to be treated at a hospital. Others sustained less severe injuries.

Marshall County school Superintendent Jeffrey Crook told our reporter the condition of roads is a constant worry. Hillside slips damaging roads are “extremely dangerous for our buses,” he noted, adding the state “needs to do something.”

In fairness, it needs to be pointed out repairs are part of the “Roads to Prosperity” program. A map on the state’s drive forward wv website shows, by our count, six slip repair projects in the six Northern Panhandle counties.

Most of us could find that many dangerous slips on roads near our homes. Clearly, the state is not doing enough to ensure our highways are safe.

How to do more? We don’t know — especially since so much “Roads to Prosperity” money is locked into new construction. Clearly, state officials need to take a hard look at the problem.

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