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Salango goes after Justice on roads prior to tour of Monongalia County

MORGANTOWN — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango traveled a selection of Monongalia County’s roads on Monday at the invite of Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom.

While the condition of the county’s roads was under the spotlight, Gov. Jim Justice was also up for critique.

“We wanted to come out and see the roads, some of the roads I haven’t seen before, and they’re in terrible condition,” Salango said, explaining the Roads to Prosperity money doesn’t appear to be flowing in Monongalia County.  

“The governor used that Roads to Prosperity money to take care of his businesses. He made sure he put his businesses and his interests first and the people last, and that’s what we’re seeing all over West Virginia.”

Salango went on to say North Central West Virginia is not receiving what it needs in terms of road infrastructure and maintenance.

Justice Campaign Communications Director Clay Sutton pointed to data presented by the West Virginia Department of Transportation website showing $42 million in completed Roads to Prosperity projects and another $165 million in the pipeline.

“Once again, polling shows Ben Salango is losing by 27 points, he desperate and will say anything regardless of the truth, ”Sutton said.

Salango, a Kanawha County Commissioner, met with a small group including Delegates Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Evan Hansen, Rodney Pyles and  John Williams, all D-Monongalia, to start the tour.

What is not up for debate, Hansen said, is that by the DOH’s own admission, Monongalia County and the other five DOH District 4 counties were getting shorted millions in annual maintenance dollars.

“Even though they kept saying they were using the formula, what they meant was that they used it 15 years ago. Since then they’re just making small adjustment county by county, because they don’t want to make the difficult decisions to put the money where it’s needed most,” Hansen said, estimating the district was underfunded by between $7 million and $8 million annually.

A bill put forward by Williams and Hansen that would have required the DOH to follow an amended formula received widespread support but was ultimately vetoed by Justice.

Williams said the end result of the current system is wildly inconsistent levels of support from district to district.
“Tucker County, the DOH district that they reside in (8), they get $7,000 per state road mile, compared to about $2,500 to $3,000 per state road mile here in Monongalia County. They’re getting double, meanwhile they have significantly less traffic than we do,” Williams explained.

Bloom said he appreciated  Salango making time to visit, and noted he’s been waiting for Justice to do the same.

“He can’t even spell it. He keeps saying Monongahela County. I think he’s getting lost looking for it,” Bloom said of Justice. “He needs to find Monongalia County, which is the number one economic engine in the state. We’re not asking for anything different than anyone else, but we have different problems.”

Asked about Bloom’s remarks, Sutton offered no additional comment.