CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday his intention to prioritize road maintenance as the main focus of the West Virginia Division of Highways moving forward.
“We’re going to get back to the basics,” Justice said at a Wednesday press conference. “The Division of Highways is, at its core, a maintenance organization — and maintenance will be our first priority.
“I told the people of this state we were going to fix the damn roads,” Justice said. “I haven’t changed my philosophy in any way, shape, form or fashion.”
Justice also laid out a plan to fix existing issues with West Virginia’s secondary roads system, announcing that state Revenue, Transportation, and other administration officials will analyze every dollar coming in and out of the Division of Highways to find the most fiscally-responsible way to fund all the necessary secondary roadwork, noting that the Legislature has authorized the DOH to shift pay-as-you-go money toward core maintenance funding.
The focus on road maintenance will begin immediately, with Justice announcing that the DOH will begin a spring and summer statewide paving and resurfacing program, which will include a combination of contracted work as well as work done by DOH crews using state equipment.
Justice announced that the repurposed funds will allow the DOH to hire over 100 temporary employees to supplement the maintenance workforce. Some of the new workers will have the opportunity to become full-time employees.
The governor said that the funds will also allow the DOH to purchase new equipment to ensure district offices have the necessary tools to address a backlog that’s been building up since before Gov. Justice took office.
“When I walked in the door here, your secondary roads were falling all to pieces,” Justice said. “We absolutely sold equipment that could have been doing maintenance in the counties. We starved our crews and everything.
“I’ve said from day one, it’s a crying pitiful shame the shape of our secondary roads and we need to do something about it,” Justice said. “And so we embarked on that through our Roads to Prosperity program but we weren’t getting it done at the pace that it needs to be able to have gotten done.”
The governor went on to say all options are on the table to secure the funding, but that officials will look at the possibility of using the bonds from the Roads to Prosperity program in addition to portions of regular annual federal funding while remaining fiscally responsible.
Justice said that all planned Roads to Prosperity projects will still be completed, but the DOH may look to re-bid certain projects that come in over-estimate.
On Wednesday, Justice also announced that he intends to name Byrd White as Acting Secretary of Transportation.
In addition to patching potholes and fixing slips on secondary roads across the state, there will also be a focus on preventative maintenance, as crews will also complete piping and ditching work to allow proper water flow near roads to mitigate future damage.