LATEST: WV Highway Commission says roads need $1.13 billion more - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

LATEST: WV Highway Commission says roads need $1.13 billion more a year

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UPDATE:

Those tasked with figuring out just how bad West Virginia's roads are found that to maintain the highway system by making constant improvements, the state would need to be prepared to provide an additional $1.13 billion annually.

According to West Virginia's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways report, the Infrastructure Committee recommended that just to maintain the highway system as it is, an additional investment of $750 million per year would be needed. To provide for expansion of the existing system, making improvements, an additional $380 million would be required, for a total of over $1 billion per year.

The report says new sources of revenue could include: motor vehicle taxes — increasing motor vehicle sales tax from 5 to 6 percent and generating about $40 million; registration fees — increasing DMV registration and motor vehicle licensing fees and index for inflation could bring in $75 million; alternative fuel vehicle registration fee — assess an annual registration fee on “Alternative Fuel Vehicles” by implementing an annual registration fee of $200 for alternative fuel vehicles and a $100 fee for electric cars bringing in an estimated $1 million; other tax revenue — dedicating the consumer sales and use tax revenue already collection from purchases associated with cars and trucks estimating a general revenue of about $25 million.

Of all the recommended collections to bring in additional sources of funding, the report says the revenue generated could result in about $141 million of additional funding for the State Road Fund annually.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways will be releasing a final report of West Virginia's roads a day after a national report said West Virginia's rural roads and bridges are among the worst in the nation.

The report will be released after the commission approves its findings May 20.

According to the Associated Press, the report by transportation research group TRIP says 29 percent of major rural roads in West Virginia were in poor condition in 2013, the sixth highest rate in the nation.

West Virginia's rural traffic fatality rate in 2013 was 2.61 deaths in 2013 for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, the seventh highest in the nation.

West Virginia University professor says identifying revenue streams is a critical part of resolving the state's infrastructure problems.

Hota GangaRao, of WVU, has focused his research on civil infrastructure.

A distinguished professor of the Benjamin M. Statler college of Engineering and Mineral Resources at WVU, GangaRao said the WV Legislature has to think in terms of increasing revenues to upkeep roads and bridges.

“Our actual spending on the West Virginia highway system has decreased about 30 percent since 1996,” he said.

GangaRao suggests increasing taxes and tolls to generate revenue and deploying innovative solutions to use those dollars to improve the quality of materials used to build highways and bridges.

“It's an ideal time to increase the gas tax because the rate is relatively low in comparison to other states,” GangaRao said. “Another way to obtain additional revenue is to raise the rates for the West Virginia Turnpike.”

The release of the 60-page report comes nearly three years after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin formed the Commission and charged its 31 members to identify the issues facing West Virginia's transportation system and propose a long-term strategic plan for addressing infrastructure improvements.

Tomblin spent time as chairman of the WV Senate Finance Committee before he became Senate President and then Governor.

“We need to utilize better innovation in terms of fixing highways and bridges,” he said. “We should be using better quality materials with better durability.”

House Resolution 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act, was voted on in the U.S. House May 19.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., voted for the legislation to fund federal highway and transit programs through July 31.

Jenkins said HR 2353 authorizes spending for federal highway, infrastructure and transit and was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today 387-35. This authorization is scheduled to expire May 31 without congressional action.

“We need a long-term surface transportation bill that invests in our nation's infrastructure. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I voted to provide full funding for a highway bill. West Virginia, in particular, needs a strong federal commitment to ensure our state's transportation needs are met, and our state and local governments need certainty in funding for long-term planning. I have consistently advocated for a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization package, and I will continue to work with leaders in Congress to see that our highways are properly funded,” Rep. Jenkins said.

U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., also voted to approve a temporary patch for highway funding while calling for a long-term solution to update our nation's infrastructure.

“Voting ‘no' wasn't an option today, but Congress must develop a long-term solution to address our crumbling infrastructure and provide peace of mind to drivers in West Virginia. Short-term extensions like this merely kick the can down the road. The families and businesses we meet with throughout the First District know the role of good roads in creating jobs and that a permanent highway bill will put people to work,” McKinley said in a news release about his vote. “Over the next few months, Congress should assure American families we are working on their behalf to find a permanent solution for fixing our roads and bridges. As a licensed engineer who worked in the construction trade, I know our infrastructure is the key to economic development and job creation.”

U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., also voted in favor of the resolution.

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