DOH Funds: Lawmakers should avoid project backlog

Give West Virginia Division of Highways employees credit. They have been working hard during the past few months to clear up a routine maintenance backlog estimated by some at about 10 years. It should be cut in half by next summer, DOH Commissioner Jimmy Wriston estimates.

What then? Will the DOH continue to have the funds, equipment and workforce needed to get the backlog down to where it should be — zero? Or will frustrated DOH employees and local officials continue to see ditches that should be cleaned, potholes that should be patched, etc., without being able to do anything about them?

A one-time infusion of cash — some estimate it at more than $100 million — has enabled the DOH to attack the maintenance backlog.

Gov. Jim Justice and state legislators should consider that early next year when they begin discussing a budget for fiscal 2021. West Virginians have seen what shortchanging the DOH means.

Any homeowner knows it is better to plan for the maintenance (and emergency repairs) they know are coming — regularly set aside a little money in savings, if possible — than to suddenly have to come up with the kind of money it takes to tackle those projects all at once.

An adequate maintenance account for West Virginia’s roads and bridges needs to be built into the budget to avoid watching the backlog build up again.

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