West Virginia highway projects driving job fair

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Transportation next week will hold a job fair in anticipation of the road projects financed by the $1.6 billion bond approved in November.

Watch for the orange cones as the first wave of highway jobs in the West Virginia Roads to Prosperity plan will start across the state as soon as the weather allows, Tom Smith, transportation secretary and highways commissioner, said.

Hiring will start this month, he said.

“It’s all about transportation,” but “It’s about much more than transportation. It’s about economic recovery,” Smith said.

“This is about thousands and thousands of jobs,” he said. “We want West Virginians to jump in here. The governor always said we want to hire West Virginians first.”

The job fair will be held 10 a.m. Feb. 16 at the Bridge Valley Community and Technical Center in Charleston. The fair is hosted by the transportation department and the West Virginia Contractors Association.

People will be hired to work with the contractors across the state, according to Smith

The Department of Transportation also will hire 500 engineers, accountants, environmentalists and highway workers, among other categories. Construction will commence soon after hiring with some bridge work expected in February.

“I would think you would see (highway) work starting in March. Truly in May, you will see it ramp up,” Smith said. “There are going to be a lot of orange barrels out and about.”

Residents will be notified of construction work to plan travel and avoid delays.

The plan includes 60 miles of completed interstate reconstruction in the coming year, up from seven miles last year.

Projects in the West Virginia Roads to Prosperity’ bond issue will roll out in phases, Smith said. The first projects will be $260 million in bridge and interstate construction approved in late 2017, which will start as soon as the weather breaks.

Once a West Virginia Parkways Authority study is complete and related bonds sold, $120 million in projects will start on W.Va. 10 in the Bluefield area and on the “Bridge to Nowhere,” also in the Bluefield area.

“There is going to be a steady drumbeat of projects going out the door,” Smith said.

Funding of $800 million is ready for 10 projects across the state. The projects will start in May and continue throughout the summer, but the first of those 10 projects, however, will be a turnpike widening project in Beckley.

While many of the projects are repairs and replacement, Smith said there are also new efforts.

The Department of Transportation is working with Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby to target projects related to economic development and tourism.

A new area of interest are designated motorcycle routes, Smith said. Routes exist in other states, such as the Dragontail in North Carolina and Tennessee.

“We are identifying routes in West Virginia that can serve a similar function,” Smith said.


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