To help cope with a shortage of funds available for roadwork, a new law in West Virginia opens new options for counties to get projects done.
Gov. Joe Manchin signed into law a bill that gives counties more control over road construction. Intended to help plug holes created from faltering fuel tax revenues, the bill allows counties to use user fees and bonds to help pay for roadwork.
Counties would have to get approval from voters before issuing user fees and bonds.
Critics said the state is moving to get out of the road business by dumping the burden onto local governments.
Supporters said the change would empower counties to come up with their own funding sources outside the state’s road fund. The fund pays for road construction and maintenance mainly through taxes on fuel, vehicle sales and registrations.
Those funding sources have soured in recent years as more fuel-efficient vehicles are available and as people drive less due to the cost of fuel. Road-building materials have also increased more than 70 percent. There has been a similar boost in cost for asphalt while cement has risen by 40 percent.
Previously SB352, the new law marks a significant shift in how roadwork can get done. West Virginia counties haven’t been responsible for roadwork since the Great Depression. The state maintains 92 percent of roads in the state – more than four times as much as the national average.
Advocates said communities need more say in where and how roads get built.
Counties would be required to submit plans for transportation projects to the commissioner of highways. Approval from the commissioner would be required before counties could get started on roadwork.
To view other legislative activities of interest for West Virginia, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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