When it comes to transportation, West Virginia has a few other differences. The West Virginia Division of Highways has one of the largest consolidated transportation systems to maintain. The DOH has statutory authority for the construction, improvement and maintenance of nearly all public highway miles (approximately 36,000 or 93 percent) in the state, which is among one of the highest percentages in the nation. And, despite West Virginia's relatively small size, the DOH is responsible for the sixth largest state-maintained highway network in the nation. West Virginia is one of only four states in which there is no county financial support for roads, bridges and highways. (Delaware, North Carolina and Virginia are the others.)
So, we have stagnant or declining revenue sources, a highly centralized and extensive transportation network, and unmet needs for improvements and new construction. Further worsening this situation is the fact that the purchasing power of the Road Fund has been cut by more than 30 percent over the past decade due to higher prices for steel, concrete, asphalt, etc.
All of this adds up to a challenging problem not only for our elected leaders, but also for every person who relies on our transportation system. Bad roads can result in other unwanted expenses. A national group found that driving on roads in need of repair costs the average West Virginia motorist nearly $230 a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.
Most of us can appreciate the fact that transportation is essential and a vital foundation for the state's economy. Thousands and thousands of jobs depend on a modern transportation system. Well-maintained roads and bridges also are needed to provide the public with safe, convenient way to get to and from schools, doctors' office, hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, etc. And a good transportation system is essential for economic development and business preservation.
West Virginia has made tremendous strides and has invested heavily over the past 30 years to improve its transportation system. However, that same system is facing a crossroads. If nothing is done soon, our great system of roads, bridges and highways will start to deteriorate rapidly.
As a broad-based coalition of groups, organizations, civic groups and businesses, West Virginians for Better Transportation is supportive of a long-term plan to address the state's transportation challenges. We also recognize that the fix won't be easy, cheap or fast. WVBT urges West Virginia's leaders to keep an open mind, understand the facts and consider all available options, including innovative ideas, to stabilize and sustain the state's transportation infrastructure for the long term.
We must sustain our state's great transportation system that has helped open up and revolutionize West Virginia. Now is the time to focus on this important matter and to come together to find a workable, long-term solution.
Fulks is chairman of West Virginians for Better Transportation.