West Virginia seeks to boost dwindling road funds

| 9/20/2006

A report from the West Virginia Division of Highways shows that the state must come up with innovative ways to fund highway construction.

Financial estimates indicate the state will need at least $20 billion during the next 20 years to complete the 170 road projects the agency has on the books. The state has enough funding to complete about 8 percent of the work.

The state’s Highways Commissioner Paul Mattox told a legislative interim committee last week that the state cannot rely on the traditional road funding sources of fuel and privilege taxes and federal highway funds to complete needed road and bridge work.

“We’ve got to look at other sources of revenue, and they have to be significant sources of revenue,” Mattox told lawmakers, The Charleston Gazette reported.

One possible solution mentioned would be to use half of increased property tax collections from development agencies along new highway corridors to fund roads.

Another alternative would be to allow voter referendums on user fees that would be used to finance road bonds, The Gazette reported.

Other ideas being floated include tweaking fuel tax rates and partnering with private groups to operate toll roads, The Associated Press reported.

Mattox said part of the problem is that costs for road construction have increased at the same time state road fund collections have decreased.

“Our road fund keeps eroding. Our need is great, and our resources continue to dwindle,” he said.

To make matters worse, West Virginia is one of only four states where county governments do not help cover the costs of state-maintained roads.