(05/23/2008)
The price of oil hit a new record above $135 a barrel, and Calhoun's price per gallon of gasoline hit $4.30 a gallon.

Sources said today the wholesale price is expected to go up another 12 cents shortly. Most economic predictors say the price will soon reach $5 per gallon, with some analysts predicting much higher rates within the year.

The world price of crude oil - the largest factor in the price of gasoline - is being kept on an upward course by worries about supplies, increasing global demand and a weak dollar.

High gasoline prices may be cutting into West Virginia's pool of money for highway repair and construction as the price per gallon exceeds $4.

The shortfall couldn't come at a worse time, the state's highways are in major disrepair.

Last month, tax proceeds totaled $30.5 million, which is $2.35 million less than projected and a drop of about 4 percent over collections in April 2007.

The price of gasoline in the last two or three months has caused consumers to change their driving habits.

The gas prices are also affecting West Virginia Turnpike toll collections, down about 5 percent in March and April.

Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick noted that if the trend continues, it could have disastrous effects on the state Road Fund, which relies heavily on gas tax collections. The Pocahontas County Democrat suggested that the Legislature focus now on alternative ways to finance highway construction.

"We can't wait until next year to say 'Where are we going to come up with another $40 million to $50 million for our road-building costs," said Senator Helmick.

That alternative is likely the privatizing of state highways and shifting more to the private sector for maintenance, which the WVDOT denies is in the works.


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