Rough Road

Justice’s funding plan prompts questions

State Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, probably was expressing a concern common to many lawmakers in questions he asked about a controversial plan to find more money for secondary road repairs in West Virginia.

During his State of the State speech last month, Gov. Jim Justice suggested one way to provide more money for the work could be to take it from the “Roads to Prosperity” program. Its foundation is $1.6 billion in bonds approved by voters in October 2017.

On Tuesday, a Senate committee questioned Department of Transportation Secretary Tom Smith on that and other matters. Smith told them no decisions have been made regarding the governor’s proposal.

Justice “has heard people throughout West Virginia say ‘you haven’t taken as much care of the secondary road system as we’d like you to.’ He’s really pressed us to find ways to take care of that and do more for the secondary system,” Smith said. “We are working on options with his office and have not yet come to conclusions on that.”

Obviously, more money is needed for secondary roads. Many are deplorable. Some are dangerous.

But, as Clements noted, “When the governor proposed this road bond and we went out and sold the road bond to the public, there was a list of projects on there. … By taking money out of the road bond on issues of routine maintenance, are we not shortening that list? In fact, the list includes hundreds of specific projects. It is beyond dispute that many voters said “yes” to the bond issue because they believed road and bridge improvements in their areas would be completed with bond money.

Clements’ point is relevant throughout the state. As he implied, many legislators worked hard to promote the “Roads to Prosperity” bond issue to their constituents. One cannot blame lawmakers for worrying that some voters will conclude they were lied to if improvements in their areas are not undertaken.

Clements is not the only legislator who understands that few things upset West Virginians as much as the condition of our secondary roads — but that one of them is believing public officials have not told us the truth.

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