Infrastructure: MOV should receive its fair share of spending

Jockeying for position in the massive road improvement program Gov. Jim Justice has in mind for West Virginia already has begun. Fortunately, some of that lobbying has been on behalf of Wood County — but more needs to be done.

Oct. 7, the date set for Mountain State voters to decide the fate of the governor’s proposal, seems like a long time away. But time is short for the necessary political work to be done for our region.

On that date (earlier, for those who take advantage of early balloting from Sept. 22 through Oct. 4), voters will be asked to approve issuance of as much as $3 billion in bonds to finance repairs and improvements to the state’s network of highways and bridges. A source for repayment of the bonds, $130 million a year in new taxes and fees approved by the Legislature this year, is in place.

Justice sold the plan to lawmakers and their constituents as a job creator. Thousands of construction workers will collect paychecks while they undertake the hundreds of projects that will be enabled by the bonds.

But the real economic development benefit is not in temporary construction jobs, but in what improved transportation infrastructure can do to lure new businesses to our state and convince existing ones that expansion is feasible.

The Mid-Ohio Valley needs to capitalize on that — and, of course, on repairs of existing roads and bridges.

Justice already has been asked to make one Wood County project a priority. State Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, who served as chairman of the Route 2-Interstate 68 Authority for years, wants the governor to emphasize four W.Va. 2 widening projects as part of the bond program. One of those, at an estimated cost of $36 million, would improve W.Va. 2 in Wood County (the others are in Marshall and Hancock counties).

Of course, Justice and state Division of Highways officials should ensure the Wood County work on W.Va. 2 is done.

But that should not be to the exclusion of other important projects in our multi-county area.

Politics will play a role in what projects are given high priority. In view of that, the old advice that the squeaky wheel gets the grease should be remembered.

Legislators from our counties — working as a team — should prepare a list of highway and bridge projects to be promoted in the governor’s office. Then, as soon as possible, they should seek Justice’s pledge our region will get its fair share of the $3 billion in highway and bridge improvements.

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