Road Work: Infrastructure repairs cannot be put off again

Imagine being the person tasked by Gov. Jim Justice to sort through the thousands of proposed projects handed in by Division of Highways districts upon the governor’s request last week. In our district alone there are 528 projects total in six of the counties, and 640 in Roane County, which broke out its projects in greater detail.

As District 3 Engineer/Manager Justin Smith reminded us, each list has priority rankings, but that does not at all reflect the order in which they will be tackled. There are 4,000 miles of secondary roads in our district alone. There will be some strategy involved in applying resources (the trickiest of which, still, is funding).

In our region alone there is a need for at least 51 more people to help do the work.

We have taken the first step in finally giving the attention to all this work that is deserved. That we are forced to try to fix it all at once now, rather than having performed the maintenance as it was needed through the years, is an enormous problem. Kicking the can down the road has caught up with us and officials know now if they try to kick it any further, it will fall into a pothole.

If the governor is able to come up with the funding, it will beg the question, why weren’t the tough decisions made — even, say, last year — to bring that money into use on secondary road repair earlier. And it will force an admission that the bureaucratic attitude of “Someone else will take care of this later,” must be a thing of the past.

The mad scramble for money and people to take care of many years worth of work to keep our roads safe must not become once-every-15-or-20-years habit. (And, yes, in some counties it is certainly true that we’re talking about necessary maintenance being performed even more infrequently.)

Taxpayers will be watching to be certain this is not another of Charleston’s disappearing shiny objects. But, operating under the assumption that some real progress will be made this time, let us hope everyone understands it is time to put in place better planning, personnel and funding to make sure we are never in this predicament again.

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