(02/15/2006)
During the 1800s and part of the 1900s, districts and counties were responsible for road building and road repair, after which the State of WV created the State Road Commission in 1933, which assumed the responsibility.

Now, facing an enormous financial crunch, the WV legislature has introduced a bill that would allow local governments to put up their own money to improve roads.

But county commissioners aren't sure they want to jump right into the road business.

The bill would not require local governments to pay for roads but instead would allow them to subsidize projects that are important to them.

The bill would recommend that county commissions impose fees to complete desired projects.

It would also authorize counties to issue revenue and general obligation bonds for transportation projects.

County governments played a part in road projects until 1933 when the Legislature turned all control over to the state.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper believes the road projects should continue under the Division of Highways management. Carper said the legislative proposal would just encourage citizens to pitch projects to the commission, which the entity just could not afford.

Carper said "We will create an expectation with no funding mechanism ... Next thing you know we'll have people blaming us for why we haven't repaired a road or put in a bridge."

There are currently $20 billion in road and bridge projects that need to be done across the state and certainly not enough money to do them.

Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said the county has enough responsibility and shouldn't have to worry about road projects.

The state maintained its own 25,348 miles of roads with $135 million of state money, funded through the 5-cent gasoline tax.


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