CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than a third of state roads are in poor to mediocre condition, and driving on those pothole-filled and rough roads costs state drivers $400 million a year -- or about $333 per person -- in increased vehicle repair and maintenance costs, a study released Thursday shows.
It found that 36 percent of state roads are in poor or mediocre condition, while 35 percent of bridges in the state need to be repaired, upgraded or replaced.
The report by national transportation research group TRIP was released as part of a rally in front of Senate chambers organized by West Virginians for Better Transportation, a coalition made up to a large extent by road-building contractors and construction unions.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and the House and Senate Transportation committee chairpersons addressed the crowd, many of whom were wearing reflective vests worn by road construction crews.
"We need economic development and that starts with highways," Senate Transportation Chairman Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, told the group.
He said the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways has proposed innovative ways to fund road construction and maintenance, but warned, "There are other legislators in this building who will oppose those ideas...You need to get those legislators -- you need to hold their feet to the fire."
In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin briefly mentioned construction of roads and bridges, but did not discuss or endorse any recommendations of his Blue Ribbon panel. That included its key recommendation, a $1 billion road bond issue, to be paid off by keeping tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike for another 30 years.