Editorials, Opinion

Dear DOH, neglecting is abdicating

The season is changing, the weather is cooling, the days are shorter and the leaves are putting on their autumn colors. Yet one thing remains the same: The state-maintained roads are still in terrible condition.

Medians are overgrown, ditches haven’t been cleared, potholes are popping up like spring dandelions and some stretches of pavement have more ripples and waves than the Mon River after a storm. And that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.

Local officials, including members of the Monongalia County Commission and municipal governments, have repeatedly tried to reach out to the West Virginia Division of Highways’ state office to find solutions. They keep getting blown off.

The City of Morgantown has made multiple offers to take over care for state roads within city limits in exchange for reimbursement. The WVDOH has officially rebuffed it. In September, DOH Chief Engineer of Operations Joe Pack said, “The WVDOH is not going to entertain any ideas which involve abdicating our responsibility in maintaining the roads in the state of West Virginia.”

“Abdicate” is generally understood to mean voluntarily giving up a position or responsibility. But “abdicate” also means to fail or refuse to fulfill a responsibility or duty. And as anyone can see by our neglected state roads, the WVDOH abdicated its responsibility in Monongalia County long ago.

To be clear, we are not throwing DOH District 4, our local district, under the proverbial bus.  District 4’s workers do what they can with what they have.

Virtually all the problems we face regarding the state of our state roads can be traced back to Charleston and the inaction — deliberate or not — of leaders there. So we recommend sending your complaints directly to the source.

Fill out a road request here: https://webapps.transportation.wv.gov/swat/

Send an email to dot.info@wv.gov or call 800-642-9292 or 833-987-6237.

If you would like to personally reach out to Commissioner of Highways Jimmy Wriston, you can send him an email at DOT.Secretary@wv.gov or call him at 304-558-0444.

You can also send physical mail to West Virginia Department of Transportation, Building 5, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E, Charleston, WV 25305.

When emailing or mailing, you may want to consider including photographs of the road in question. As the saying goes, seeing is believing.

If you aren’t sure if a specific street belongs to the city or to the state, check this map: https://tinyurl.com/citystateroads. On it, city-owned streets are purple; state-maintained roads (including U.S., state and county routes) are in yellow, dark red and orange.

Whether you choose to email, write or call, please remember to be polite. The long neglect of our roads has left many of us simmering in frustration. We want to be the metaphorical squeaky wheel that gets the oil, but remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. We want their attention — not their resentment. Otherwise, they’ll continue “abdicating” the care of our roads.