Bill Aimed at Repairing W.Va. Secondary Roads
Almost every day, I hear from concerned residents of the First District regarding the conditions of the roads in the Northern Panhandle.
“The people who live along this road fear it will be completely gone by spring if this wet weather keeps up. It’s barely hanging on.”
“When is Stone Church Road going to be paved? We have had major potholes for a long time.”
“Is the slip on Route 67 between Wellsburg and Bethany ever going to be repaired? The condition of the road is a dangerous public safety issue for the cars, buses, and trucks that have to use that road every single day.”
These are just a few stories I’ve heard. I’ve personally seen roads that have deteriorated so badly, people can no longer access the driveways to their homes. Ditch lines and culverts that have collapsed or filled, causing flooding in yards and basements. Potholes so pervasive and large that they’ve caused thousands of dollars in damage to the vehicles of people who must drive that road daily. These kinds of damages are putting people’s property values at risk.
How did we find ourselves in this kind of shape with our secondary roads? More so, how can we allow it to continue if we have the means to make it right?
Residents tell me they’re terrified of children being hurt if a school bus has an accident on a slipped road, and they’re worried about what to do in an emergency knowing that the larger vehicles of first responders cannot reach their homes. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to move us into action.
I want to be clear: I don’t blame the local Division of Highways officials and their staff for our current situation. They have done absolutely all they could do with what Charleston has given them to work with throughout the last two decades or so. Unfortunately, that’s been nowhere near enough.
In 2017, voters in the Northern Panhandle put their faith in a huge roadwork initiative. Almost two years later, they’re rightfully feeling a little jaded, and the conditions of the roads they travel daily to school, to work, to church? They’re not any better. In fact, in some places, they’re even worse.
Last week, however, the Senate said enough is enough, and that action couldn’t wait for “some day.” By unanimous vote, the Senate passed an expansive, ambitious plan to finally provide our local DOH districts with the resources they need to finally be able to take on the significant problem we face with our secondary roads.
Senate Bill 522, Creating the Special Road Repair Fund, is specifically meant to target the crumbling secondary roads in throughout our state. This bill would set aside $110,000,000 per year for the next two years to be directly used to help counties tackle desperately needed repairs to roads that can’t get any help with federal dollars.
The bill creates the Enhanced Road Repair Maintenance Program, which allows county commissioners to submit to their local DOH district a priority list of projects. Who better to judge the needs in their counties than the people who live there, right? The DOH district is then empowered to hire a private contractor to take care of the repairs that may seem small, but are huge to those of us who use those local roads every day — filling potholes, paving, ditching and culverts, and mowing. By freeing up the DOH from these projects, they will have more time to devote to the major ones, especially the bridge work along Interstate 70.
I have tremendous respect for our DOH employees and the hard-working staff in District 6 who take care of us in the Northern Panhandle. As legislators, it is imperative that we give them the resources and equipment they need to get these jobs done.
SB 522 goes a long way in filling those needs, and I am hopeful it will find its way to the governor’s desk for his signature
Senator Weld represents the First Senatorial District and serves as the Senate Majority Whip and the Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the West Virginia State Senate. He is also an attorney with the firm of Spilman, Thomas & Battle in their Wheeling office.