Transportation day at the Legislature brings highway funding que - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Transportation day at the Legislature brings highway funding questions

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A few lawmakers have already speculated that highway funding will be dealt with in a special session after the recently convened regular 60-day session, but 42 different groups participated in transportation day at the Legislature Feb. 14 to call attention to the need for funds.

Several people donning neon yellow safety vests to call attention to transportation day took part in displays and meetings throughout the Capitol. The participating groups included AARP, the Affiliated Construction Trades of West Virginia, the West Virginia Trucking Association, the West Virginia Parkways Authority and the West Virginia Association of Counties, all led by the umbrella group West Virginians for Better Transportation.

WVBT stated in a handout that all the groups are "united in their support for a long-term solution for our roads, bridges and highways and for secure transportation funding sources not only for the maintenance of the existing infrastructure, but also for new construction and expansion."

West Virginia maintains about 36,000 miles of public highway miles, and it's one of only four states in which there is no country or township ownership of highways. The West Virginia Division of Highways is tasked with the construction, improvement and maintenance of nearly all public highway miles – 93 percent – making it among one of the highest percentages in the nation.

Driving on West Virginia roads that need repair costs about $229 per year in extra vehicle and operating costs, according to the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

During an hour-long meeting joint meeting of the House of Delegates and Senate Transportation Committees, attendees heard presentations from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Legislative Director Jason Pizatella and other stakeholders.

Pizatella spoke about Tomblin's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways, which has an infrastructure subcommittee that recommends an additional $750 million per year to preserve and improve the state's existing roads, bridges and highways along with an additional $380 million per year to fund construction or expansion projects through the next 20 to 25 years.

Pizatella said during the meeting that the commission, which was established in August and has met two times so far, will make a presentation to Tomblin May 1.

He said the commission is looking at "tolling and other innovative financing options presented by the federal government," to fill the funding gaps for the maintenance, expansion and construction of roads.

Pizatella also noted the sharp decline in federal dollars available for highway and bridge maintenance along with the increase in more fuel-efficient cars on the road that don't fuel up and pay motor fuel taxes as often.

But, state budget estimates show revenues in the state road fund are better than previously predicted, Pizatella said; however, the administration is not optimistic that the trend will continue in the long term.