CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – On Oct. 7, 2017, West Virginians voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow for the sale of up to $1.6 billion in bonds to address the Mountain State’s neglected highways and bridges. A full 73 percent of voters backed the visionary Roads to Prosperity program, proposed by Gov. Jim Justice.
It would prove to be the largest and most ambitious infrastructure investment in the history of West Virginia.
“Roadwork has been underfunded for decades, and without Governor Justice’s vision, we would have just been managing the decline of our roadway system,” said West Virginia Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E.
Passage of the program has allowed a quicker pace of road maintenance activities such as ditching, repairing drainage structures, mowing and tree canopy cutting. The Division of Highways has focused on getting workers the training and equipment they need to work efficiently. The Division also increased transparency by building Data Analytics Units in every District to report on the work completed and costs as well as serve as a data-driven decision making tool for managers on all levels looking at how to catch up the underfunded maintenance needs most efficiently.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused layoffs of state highway workers in other parts of the country, the West Virginia Division of Highways continued the momentum of the program, shifts were staggered – beginning earlier, ending later, crews were divided and traveled in smaller groups, masks and cleaning supplies were provided, those who could telework did, but not a single employee was laid off. Four years into the Roads to Prosperity program, drivers in all 55 counties are seeing work zones and completed projects.
Projects paid for through Roads to Prosperity include massive undertakings like the rebuilding or rehabilitation of 26 different bridges along Interstate 70 in Wheeling to fixing secondary roads that West Virginians drive on each and every day.
“Every one of those bridges is now getting the attention it deserves, which is virtually important,” Wriston said. “Plus, we completed the first section of four-lane highway in Wyoming County in our state’s history!”
Roads to Prosperity funding has tackled large projects like a $33 million contract to pave the upgraded Coalfields Expressway four-lane between Mullens and Slab Fork, or $48 million to rebuild Interstate 64 from the ground up between Milton and the US 35 interchange near Teays Valley. Roads to Prosperity provided $20 million to expedite putting new decks on a series of interstate bridges on Interstate 77 in Charleston.
“Thanks to Gov. Justice, this program has made a huge difference in the ability of the Division of Highways to do what it needs to do,” said State Highway Engineer Alan Reed, P.E. “Increased funding through Roads to Prosperity has brought a new pride to DOH that has affected all aspects of the organization. Our people have access to the people they need to talk to. We have better equipment. We plan with an eye for consistency statewide – sharing the best practices and showing our people the right way to do the work.”
“With the new confidence brought about by Roads to Prosperity, WVDOH is vastly different,” Reed added. “It’s a better place to be, it’s a better place to work, and we have a clear vision.”
“Project after project, mile after mile of road work is being done,” Wriston added. “The governor has given us the tools we need and we’re not kicking the can down the road. We are attacking these issues every single day.”
Progress on all Roads to Prosperity Projects may be tracked on the Drive Forward website.