With dozens of contractors and construction workers filling the House chambers -- with many wearing yellow safety vests -- government and industry representatives discussed the deteriorating state of West Virginia roads.
Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox noted that the current funding formula for road construction and maintenance, which relies primarily on dwindling federal dollars and a state tax on gasoline, is increasingly inadequate.
"West Virginia's highway system is a bargain," he said, "but it is not free."
Mattox said the average driver in West Virginia pays about $296 in gas taxes a year, or about 81 cents a day for what he called the privilege of driving on the state's highways.
"That is less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day," he said.
"We need a long-term solution to funding infrastructure," Mattox said, "not only at the federal level, but the state level, as well."
Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, director of the Rahall Transportation Institute, said he is encouraged that a blue-ribbon commission appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is making progress regarding highway funding issues and options.
"We have to have a plan that will sustain our economy," Plymale said. "What is needed and what is required is additional revenue -- but people don't like to hear that."
In 2011, Tomblin vetoed a bill that would have increased various Division of Motor Vehicles fees to provide an additional $43 million a year for the state Road Fund. At the time, Tomblin cited a technical error in the bill, as well as the poor timing for increasing fees, as state residents were struggling to recover from the latest recession.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.