Solutions for road funding shortage sought in West Virginia

| 11/29/2006

A leading highways official in West Virginia this month told lawmakers they need to come up with an additional $350 million a year to keep up with road construction and maintenance in the state.

State Highway Engineer Marvin Murphy told an interim committee that the agency is considering tax and fee increases and other funding measures that could generate about $200 million more for the road fund each year.

Among the proposed revenue enhancers is renewing a 5-cent-per-gallon fuel tax that is set to expire next summer, and allowing the wholesale tax to increase an expected 3 to 4 cents per gallon next year. Increasing fees for license plates and driver's licenses also was mentioned, The Associated Press reported.

In addition, coming up with new funding sources for agencies that tap into the road fund could draw consideration. Those agencies include the West Virginia State Police and the Public Service Commission weight enforcement section.

Other funding sources previously mentioned include privatization of the West Virginia Turnpike and adopting a similar test program used in Oregon to charge drivers for road use by the mile instead of the gallon.

Supporters say that state lawmakers should look for new ways to pay for roads, including using the state's general revenue fund.

"We can't carry the water if you don't give us a bucket," Delegate Richard Browning, D-Wyoming told The AP. "If we just sit back and raise $3 million here, or $4 million there, that's not going to cut it."