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$1.3 billion needed for state roads, panel told

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways has determined the state needs to come up with at least $1.3 billion a year to maintain, repair and build the state road system.

That amount would increase by another $59 million a year if tolls are removed from the West Virginia Turnpike as currently scheduled in 2019, Parkways general manager Greg Barr told the Parkways Authority Thursday.

"They asked me to come down and explain what would be needed to continue to repair and maintain the Turnpike in 2019 and after, if the tolls are removed," Barr said of his appearance before the blue ribbon panel.

"Basically, about $59 million a year would be needed to continue maintenance of the Turnpike," Barr said. "That's a minute amount compared to the total number, but the bottom line, it is $59 million."

The state Road Fund, dedicated to highway construction and maintenance, brings in less than $700 million a year, primarily from the state gas tax, and also from revenue from motor vehicle registration fees and from the 5 percent privilege tax on sales of cars and trucks.

Federal highway funds bring in about $450 million a year, but Barr said expectations are for federal funding to decline sharply in the future.

Gas tax revenues are also declining, as vehicles become increasingly fuel efficient, and as vehicles convert to alternate fuel sources, including electric power and natural gas.

"For West Virginia and smaller states population-wise, all of a sudden, you're looking at having to raise funds from new fees or taxes," Barr said.

"When you've got a state of just 1.8 million people, it becomes a bigger deal to raise that kind of money," he added.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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