While the national average cost per mile for vehicles traveling on toll roads is 8.3 cents per mile, Ely said, the cost of traveling the West Virginia Turnpike averages 6.8 cents per mile.
Whatever new funding sources the subcommittee comes up with, the need for new taxes or fees, and the rationale used to recommend them, must be thoroughly explained to the public, said Rahn and Ely.
"People don't want new taxes or tolls," Rahn said, "until their roads and bridges start to crumble."
Subcommittee member Fred Burns, owner of a Marlinton-based trucking company, said those in his industry would prefer a fuel tax increase to fees based on load weight and miles traveled, or increases in Turnpike tolls. Burns said his company annually pays the equivalent of about 17 percent of its gross revenue in fuel and road use taxes, tolls, excise taxes on tires and other fees, or about $22,000 per truck.
Burns also suggested conducting an efficiency audit on the state Department of Highways to help assure the public that any new taxes and fees are being prudently spent.
With Gov. Tomblin now entering lame duck status and legislators not immediately facing re-election, "this is the year to make proposals and get something done," said subcommittee member and Delegate Margaret Anne Staggers, D-Fayette.
Brenda Nichols Harper of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce wondered whether she and other subcommittee members should focus on finding ways to pay for the maintenance of existing roads and bridges, and defer action on building new ones.
"I'm concerned that we may have been tasked with coming up with a funding goal that's impossible to meet," she said. "We're talking about squeezing out the equivalent of 25 percent of the general revenue budget on an annualized basis."
"Whatever tax or fee increases we come up with to produce what we need should be realistic," Burns said, "but we need to take care of our infrastructure." Putting off needed repairs and improvements would end up being much more costly in the long run, he said.
"Finding a solution is going to be a process," said Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, and a member of the subcommittee. "I think it will end up being a series of things, done incrementally, and not just one approach. But I think it will happen."
Chairman Bob Orders, CEO of Orders Construction Co., asked subcommittee members to present what they consider the best funding approaches during a Feb. 28 meeting.Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.