Local Chamber endorses road bond

Legislature has already passed gas tax hike, fee increases

BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the road bond that state voters will be asked to approve in an October special election.

Chamber president Robbie Skinner said, “This is something that is very important to our state and particularly very important to our region. As the Corridor H region that we are here along the four-lane highway, we have quite an opportunity ahead of us. We are going to see a lot of increased transit coming through this region when that project is completed.

“Estimates are as high as 350 percent increase in traffic volume on U.S. Route 48. We need to be prepared for that. Our governmental bodies are preparing for that and our Chamber is preparing for that. We as a community are happy to support that.”

One of the proposals under the bond referendum is another several mile stretch of Corridor H (U.S. Route 48).

The Corridor H Authority also recently endorsed the amendment and asked voters to vote yes at the polls.

On Monday, the chamber hosted Governor Jim Justice’s legislative director, Bob Ashley, to speak about the bond referendum in a luncheon held at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Ashley said he was excited about the bond referendum.

“The governor proposed a pretty healthy bond issue for the people of West Virginia,” he said. “He had driven all over this state as he campaigned for governor and was surprised at how bad our roads are and how they were falling apart.”

The $1.6 billion in bonds would be paid back over the next 25 years from tax and fee revenues put in place by the legislature this summer.

The new 3.3 cents per gallon gas tax at the wholesale level went into effect July 1.

“The legislature in their wisdom did it that way so that it didn’t affect our price per gallon,” Ashley said. “What’s affected our price per gallon is Hurricane Harvey.”

Department of Motor Vehicle fees were also raised, as was a 1 percent increase on the new car purchases. That will also help raise about $140 million for the state’s roads, according to Ashley.

“While we are waiting on this to happen, the Department of Transportation in August started putting out a lot of new paving projects and slip repairs and fixing the roads that we already have,” he said. “Some of the bond money will go to continue paving the roads, and we will build some new roads.”

He claimed better roads will make it easier to get into and out of cities and that will create more economic opportunities.

Justice also wants to have an apprentice program for young people to learn highways construction from the more experienced workers who are nearing retirement age.

Thirty-nine projects in 22 counties that total $1.6 billion would be funded if voters pass the bond referendum. Other projects proposed in the Roads to Prosperity program, including 22 in Upshur, would be funded through pay-as-you-go routes or through the sale of federally backed GARVEE bonds and Turnpike bonds.

Early voting begins Friday, Sept. 22 in county courthouses and continues through Oct. 4. The election is set for Saturday, Oct. 7 with all regular precincts open.

To see a list of proposed projects, visit Roadstoprosperity.wv.gov.

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