#FTDR: Fix the (blank) roads!

Part of my daily commute includes about a half-mile portion of W.Va. 7 that is in terrible shape. The pavement is so twisted and misshapen that even crawling along around the infamous Hogback Turn feels as though I’m riding in a boat over ocean waves. “Why haven’t they fixed this road!?”  

Roads invite complaints in West Virginia.  

One reason is that some of our roads are just awful. Poor maintenance, potholes, slides, crumbling edges and washed out sections all justify our grievances. The bad roads are hard on our vehicles and our psyche.  

After all, we pay for the roads with our tax dollars. Every time we buy gas, we bear witness to how much of what we pay goes to the roads, which prompts us to ask, “Am I getting what I’m paying for?”  

We do not give the roads much latitude. Hitting one pothole in an otherwise decent highway will throw many of us into a rage about “the condition of these damn roads!”  

So, we want the roads fixed, but in practice, we are not happy about that either.  

No one caught in a traffic delay because of road work smiles and says, “Hey, I’m happy to sit here while my car overheats and I’m late for my doctor’s appointment because these fine workers are fixing the road.”  

We would prefer all the roadwork to be done between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., and on the weekends, if possible.  

Now, consider that West Virginia has about 35,000 miles of roads and 7,000 bridges. Maybe if we had the landscape of West Texas, this wouldn’t be a problem. But here the roads are always going up, down, around, through or over something. I’m not an engineer, but I suspect it is hard to build and maintain a road carved into the side of a mountain just above a creek.  

And here is the worst part about fixing the roads: It does not matter how many miles of state highways are as smooth as a baby’s behind, if a section of the road you travel every day is bad, then the roads are terrible. 

Politicians are always talking about fixing the roads, and Gov. Jim Justice is no different. (I would be careful about that for all the aforementioned reasons.) However, in fairness, the Justice administration has a commendable record on road work, from pushing through road bonds to re-energizing the highway department with new equipment.  

Meanwhile, more money than ever is flowing into West Virginia for road work. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $3.8 billion over five years for roads and bridges. Justice and the Legislature are considering dedicating an additional $150 million in surplus General Revenue funds to highway projects.  

I doubt there has ever been this much money available and this much road work that will be done now and over the next five years in West Virginia. It’s enough to make me positively optimistic about West Virginia roads! All those orange cones and barrels are signs of progress.  

But then again, I have to drive home later today, and the Hogback Turn awaits.  

#FTDR (Fix the d*mn roads).  

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.