Update given on road maintenance

Photo by Steven Allen Adams Gov. Jim Justice looks on Tuesday as Transportation Secretary Byrd White goes over the work the Division of Highways employees have done on secondary roads over a 30-day period.

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice and officials with the state Department of Transportation and Division of Highways want the public to know that work has started on repairing West Virginia’s secondary roads.

Justice, DOT Secretary Byrd White, and DOH Acting Commissioner Jimmy Wriston, briefed reporters on the progress during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“We had to focus our attention on fixing the roads,” Justice said. “We absolutely had to change the direction we were going in.”

According to data compiled by the Division of Highways, work between March 16 and April 14 resulted in: 2,090 miles of ditching and blading; more than 148,000 feet of pipe culverts and ditchline obstacles; more than 16,000 tons of asphalt patching and related maintenance; more than 97,000 tons of stabilization.

“I can tell you we’ve never had an April like this represents,” said Wriston, who started working for the Department of Transportation in 1996. “We got our mission. The routine is simply not good enough. We’ll just slide back further if we keep doing the same thing the same way. The bottom line is we did exactly what Gov. Justice told you. We went back to our roots and we went back to our work ethic.”

Altogether, DOH workers put in more than 152,000 hours on secondary road maintenance projects over a 30-day period.

“The results are easy to see,” Justice said. “Those people are doing great work. They’re like ants flying all over the place.”

Last month, Justice challenged DOH district engineers and county supervisors come up with lists of non-federal secondary roads in need of maintenance and what each district and county would need to repair those roads in 72 hours. Those workers submitted more than 3,200 pages ranking secondary roads and requesting additional support and equipment.

Using that information, the Department of Transportation released a list of secondary road projects it intends to finish by the end of the 2019 fiscal year on June 30. DOT is using their website at transportation.wv.gov to update the public on a weekly basis on what projects are starting.

“Before this week is over there will be posted on our website a list of jobs we intend to complete before the end of this fiscal year,” White said. “You’ll be able to look at it. The list for the rest of the year will come out soon.”

“Once we can cleanse the list and prioritize the list and everything, then you’ll see a weekly updating of projects that are finalized, fixed and done,” Justice said. “You can watch on the screens everything that is happening.”

According to White, in order to finish the secondary road maintenance projects by June 30, the Division of Highways needs $80 million. Dave Hardy, secretary of the state Department of Revenue, said that $35 million of that is coming from within the Division of Highways budget. Another $25 million will come from supplemental appropriations from other state accounts. And $25 million will come from the $917 million of the first-round general obligation bonds for the Roads to Prosperity program.

“We have a pool of money from the general revenue bond proceeds,” Hardy said. “Our first goal was to see what we needed between now and June 30. I would anticipate over the next few weeks that I’ll be working with our state budget director, our bond folks, and of course highways to identify where we’re going July 1st forward.”

According to Hardy, the state can use up to $263 million from the $917 million road bond funds for secondary road maintenance projects.