Two new websites will not make our bad roads go away.
Gov. Jim Justice announced the creation of two new websites under the state Department of Transportation’s purview this week
One site — transportation.wv.gov/driveforwardwv— will keep the public up to date on the more than 600 sites listed in the Roads to Prosperity program.
The other — transportation.wv.gov/wv roads — allows the public to report road problems and for the Division of Highways (DOH) to make a determination within a week.
It’s encouraging that the governor is concerned about the transparency of his roads program and efforts to step up the DOH’s responsiveness.
Yet, it’s no distraction from recent news that bids on the first big-ticket project in the Roads to Prosperity program came in more than $100 million over estimates.
That project, which repaves miles of Interstate 70, including work on several bridges, was estimated to cost $170 million. The lowest bids came in a bit more than
$270 million. The highest bid was nearly $350 million.
Though we don’t subscribe to suggestions by the House Minority leader that the Justice administration might have intentionally misled the public, someone apparently didn’t do the math.
Inflation for road building materials and construction can be volatile and the recent tariffs on steel affected costs. But when the low bid comes in $100 million higher than estimates, that reeks of negligence.
True, the market was favorable to the state in a recent bond sale that resulted in the state banking an additional $100 million due to interest rates. Also, the driveforwardwv.com site will allow for detailed information on locations, schedules and costs for projects.
Still, aside from the unease about costs, many are wondering if and how the state will adjust the budget to accommodate such cost overruns. Specifically, how will it affect their county’s projects?
The scope of some of these projects, the late hour of this construction season and the pace of some projects also fuel skepticism.
And all the while, inspections and oversight are, of course, vital to this work being completed to specifications. If it comes down to rushing these projects to elicit support or doing them right, which might entail delays, we vote for the latter course. That includes rejecting bids for the I-70 project if necessary and rebidding those contracts with fewer enhancements.
Department of Transportation officials say it’s too early to tell how costs will affect the program.
But if nothing else, we’ll know the impact thanks to that one new website and can still complain about road conditions thanks to the other.