The West Virginia House has approved a bill that is intended to open the door to public-private partnerships in the state.
House lawmakers voted 69-27 to advance a bill to the Senate that would allow private developers to build and collect tolls on future highways throughout the state. Private groups also would be allowed to mine coal at project sites.
Opponents say they have grave concerns about allowing private investors to run roadways. They also say adding tolls to highways in the state would devastate business and tourism in area regions.
Supporters say all avenues for transportation funding must be considered because road funds continue to erode. They also cite the fact that West Virginia is one of only four states where county governments do not help cover the costs of state-maintained roads.
Others say the agreements with private business to operate roadways would be temporary. The state eventually would take control of affected highways, they say.
Sponsored by House Roads and Transportation Chairwoman Lidella Wilson Hrutkay, D-Logan, the measure would mandate that only the state’s Division of Highways could condemn property for public-private road projects.
The bill – HB4476 – is awaiting consideration in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
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– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor