Editorials, Opinion

No good reason to put Trump’s name on I-68

There are currently three House concurrent resolutions proposed to rename roads or bridges in West Virginia. One would rename the Mannington Arch as the WW II Veterans Toothman Brothers Memorial Bridge. Another would memorialize a portion of Old Route 73 in Preston County for Robin W. Ames, the 37-year-old cyclist who was struck and killed by a distracted driver last year. And the final resolution would rename the section of Interstate 68 from the Interstate 79 connection to the Maryland border the “President Donald J. Trump Highway.”

Want to honor our WWII veterans? Wonderful. Every vet and loved one who drives over that bridge will feel our state’s appreciation. Want to remember a young life taken too soon and remind drivers their attention on the road is a matter of life and death? Please do.

But to name the interstate after Trump? There’s no good reason for that.

 Trump is a highly divisive figure. Naming a segment of interstate after him is a giant middle finger to anyone who dislikes him — particularly to Mon County residents (the majority of whom voted against Trump), considering most of the proposed roadway to be renamed lies within Mon County’s borders. Also consider that I-68 is a major road leading in and out of the state. While West Virginia as a whole voted for Trump, most of America voted for Biden. How does naming I-68 for such an unpopular president come across as anything but unwelcoming to people traveling into and through our state? 

Also, Trump hasn’t done anything so great for West Virginia as to deserve having a road named for him. We don’t have the space to address every point in HCR 53, so let’s hit the highlight reel. The resolution cites Trump’s strong support for West Virginia’s energy production. Well, he promised to bring back coal, and yet, coal has not come back. (And it’s not coming back.) Cross that one out and keep going down the list.

HCR 53 goes on to say, “President Trump deserves enormous credit for his inspiring leadership of Operation Warp Speed …” Operation Warp Speed was not a failure — we will give the former president that. But we can’t ignore the months he spent downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus, encouraging people to not wear masks and to storm the capitols of states that enforced COVID precautions. We also haven’t forgotten that he kiboshed a national COVID-testing plan that could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. The one thing Trump did right does not nullify the dozens of things he did wrong that cost Americans and West Virginians their lives.

It also proclaims, “President Trump built some 423 new miles of impressive border wall now standing guard at our southern border protecting Americans [from] the massive influx of Illegal Aliens that were making it harder for West Virginians to find jobs.” Census data says immigrants (used as a catch-all word) make up only 2% of West Virginia’s population. “Illegal aliens,” as the resolution calls them, make up less than 0.5% of West Virginia’s total population — fewer than 9,000 people in a state of 1.8 million. And according to the American Immigration Council, only 11% of West Virginia’s total immigrant population is from Mexico — fewer than 4,000 people. There are a lot of reasons people in the Mountain State can’t find jobs — illegal immigrants aren’t among them.

Beyond the ideological reasons for not naming I-68 for Trump is one glaring practical reason: The cost. According to the West Virginia Department of Transportation, two signs on a four-lane road — like I-68 — cost about $1,000. (The cost for a two-lane road is about $400, so renaming Old Route 73 and the Mannington Arch combined would still cost less than naming I-68 for Trump.) With materials and labor, a pothole costs about $100-$200 to repair. For the price of two signs with Donald J. Trump’s name on them, the state could repair five to 10 potholes. So let’s scrap the road sign honoring someone who has done little for West Virginia and fix the roads instead — something that will actually help West Virginians.