By Micah Weglinski
Ask anyone around town what the No. 1 concern is for our area, and roads will rank at the top of the list.
TRIP, a national transportation research group, released a report in 2017 showing West Virginia has the worst roads in the country, and our area has the worst roads in the state.
I don’t have to tell you that, you see and feel it every time you drive. It damages our vehicles and peace of mind.
“Extra vehicle operating costs total $815. The safety costs $313, and the congestion costs $311 for total of $1,439 annually per driver in the Morgantown area,” said Will Wilkins, executive director
Every driver in the Morgantown area loses an average of $1,439 per year due to the poor conditions of our roads. Morgantown is the most thriving economy in our state. Why do we accept this, and what can be done?
West Virginia voters overwhelmingly supported the road bond, with 81 percent in favor in Monongalia County. We now pay more to register our vehicles, fill our gas tanks, and drive on toll roads to fund the bond. This shows our willingness to make sacrifices to fix a common problem.
We have very limited local control over the roads we drive most often. The state Division of Highways (DOH) maintains most of the high-traffic arteries through the county. Morgantown can only repair roads that fall within city limits and under its purview. Monongalia County does not have any authority over road maintenance or snow removal.
Meanwhile, the DOH is understaffed. Starting pay is well below what other employers can provide. Thus, the quality of roads in our county continues to fall behind.
One possible solution would be to expand the city limits to include more of the greater Morgantown area through annexation or minor boundary adjustments. The $3 per week user fee allows the city to put its roads on much shorter repair cycles than the state has been able to provide.
The city made great strides in just two years, cutting the number of “poor” or “mediocre” roads in half. Paying the user fee will cost much less than the $1,439 status quo.
Another solution is for the city and county to negotiate with the DOH to take local control over more state roads running through the city.
Local officials are better suited to determine where the need
is than are bureaucrats in Charleston. For example, the county could hire people to clean out culverts and fix drainage ditches. This would free up resources for the DOH to focus efforts on the underserved parts of our county like its western end.
Every person should be engaged in the election process in 2018. Ask candidates questions about the roads and get them on record that they will work toward fixing this problem.
Investing in our roads is a key component to future economic success. We must face this challenge head on. We should not accept the unacceptable.
Micah Weglinski is a member of The Dominion Post’s Community Advisory Board.