(01/27/2009)
State's wish list for stimulus funding is lengthy

State identifies more than 360 projects that may be eligible for cash infusion

By Justin D. Anderson
Daily Mail Capitol Reporter
dailymail.com

In just about every corner of West Virginia, there's a public project that's ready to go if money is available.

In all, the state has identified more than $2 billion worth of "shovel ready" projects that have been reported to the state's congressional leadership in hopes of getting a piece of the vast economic stimulus package being pushed by President Barack Obama.

West Virginia's list ranges from small infrastructure projects to hugely expensive road projects. They're called "shovel ready" because each could be under way within 180 days if money was available.

Gov. Joe Manchin's office provided the entire 13-page list of state projects to the Daily Mail through a Freedom of Information Act request.

It does not include most of the projects proposed by city and county officials, including those in Kanawha and Putnam counties, who've begun making lists of their own.

Their lists also are likely to be submitted to the state's congressional delegation, if they haven't already, and the projects could either be funded directly from the federal government or could receive a portion of money from the state's allotment.

They include everything from Kanawha County's requests for funding for a new library to South Charleston's request for money to upgrade a railroad overpass.

More than 360 projects are specified on the state's list pertaining to water and sewer and other infrastructure; roads and bridges; the West Virginia Turnpike; prisons and public safety; and other renovations.

The majority of the projects are for water, sewer and other infrastructure improvements. More than 170 projects fall into this category.

The most expensive item is the expansion of broadband Internet to parts of the state where it doesn't exist. This project, which Gov. Joe Manchin has been pushing for some time, is estimated to cost about $40 million.

Manchin last year signed a bill into law that puts the expansion of broadband project on track to be completed by 2010.

The other projects mainly have to do with water and sewer upgrades. The multitude of the projects, and their widespread distribution, seem to illustrate a deterioration of state water and sewer systems.

In Kanawha County, there are more than $29 million in requests for maintenance and upgrades for sanitary boards and public service districts in the Upper Kanawha Valley, Chelyan, St. Albans, South Charleston and the Elk Valley.

Statewide, there are many smaller projects - $3 million and under - listed for public service districts and for waterline extensions to areas of the state that aren't served.

Kathy Cosco, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said roughly 20 to 25 percent of the households in West Virginia have no public water service and almost 45 percent are not connected to a public sewer system.

Some of the larger projects include water and sewer upgrades for the municipalities of Wayne and Elkins. Wayne can use $12.7 million, and Elkins can use $28 million.

Elkins Mayor Judith Guye said her city has to build a new water plant and replace waterlines, some of which are 100 years old.

Guye said the water plant was built in the 1920s and is fast deteriorating. She said a wall of the plant recently began to collapse, and the city had to pony up a lot of money to repair the wall. But those repairs gave the plant only another four years of life, she said.

The waterlines are prone to leaks. Guye said the city has improved on being able to detect where leaks occur, but they continue cropping up.

"It's always a problem with the old lines," she said.

She said the city supplies water to customers of three outlying public service districts.

"So it's not only city residents but a good bit of Randolph County," Guye said.

If the city would have to borrow all the money for its water projects, she said it would have to substantially raise water rates on citizens.

When it comes to state transportation, the big-ticket items of the more than 120 roads and bridge projects include: the Coalfields Expressway; U.S. 35; East Beckley Bypass; Corridor H; upgrades to W.Va. routes 10 and 9; widening W.Va. 2 from Parkersburg to St. Mary's; upgrading the Winfield toll bridge; and work on King Coal Highway.

The most expensive projects involve widening W.Va. 9 to four lanes and finishing Corridor H in Grant County.

The W.Va. 9 project - meant to accommodate a growing population in the Eastern Panhandle - is estimated to cost about $102 million, while the Corridor H project should cost about $89 million.

Locally, rehabilitating the Winfield toll bridge could cost about $20 million.

The Fort Hill Bridge and the connecting on and off ramps could use about $12 million worth of repairs, according to the list.

Officials with the West Virginia Turnpike - who have long lamented a lack of funds to maintain the road - have listed 156.5 lane miles that need paving at a cost of $152 million. Counting its two northbound and two southbound lanes, the 88-mile Turnpike has about 352 lane miles of pavement.

Two bridges on the Turnpike - the Bluestone and Yeager - need painted, which would cost about $2 million. A widening project in Beckley is estimated to cost about $70 million.

In the public safety category, the state Division of Corrections says it can use money for projects like completing a work camp and upgrading the sewerage at Huttonsville Correctional Center.

Also on that list include $24.5 million worth of projects to extend the taxiway and upgrade the avionic shop at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport in Martinsburg.

The state parks system says it can use about $8.6 million for projects like fixing the roofs of the Blackwater and Cacapon lodges; upgrading drainage for the golf course at Canaan Valley; building a recreation center at Chief Logan; and expanding the lodge at Twin Falls.

There are about $17.4 million worth of projects at the state Capitol Complex. Restoration of the exterior of the East and West wings of the Capitol building is expected to cost about $5 million, while renovations and upgrades to buildings 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 could use about $12.4 million.

The city of Nitro says it can use about $500,000 to build a new public boat-launching site with a 50-vehicle parking lot, boat ramp, courtesy dock and associated facilities.

There are also line items in the list for $14.7 million to build a new veterans' cemetery in Institute.

Another $6 million could be useful to create temporary jobs through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Conservation to address a "substantial backlog" of maintenance at wildlife management areas, fish hatcheries and shooting ranges in the state.

Stimulus package projects

State officials have compiled a detailed list of projects, worth more than $2 billion, that could quickly get started if West Virginia gets a portion of the federal government's proposed economic stimulus package.

In this region, requests include: - $224 million Paving and maintenance on the W.Va. Turnpike, including $2 million for painting the Yeager and Bluestone bridges and $70 million to widen highway in the Beckley area.

- $39 million Construction on U.S. 35

- $29.7 million Maintenance and upgrades for sanitary boards and public service districts based in the Upper Kanawha Valley, Chelyan, St. Albans, South Charleston and the Elk Valley.

- $20 million Renovations to the Winfield toll bridge

- $17.4 million Renovations at the Capitol Complex including exterior restorations to east and west wings and upgrades in buildings 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

- $14.7 million New veterans' cemetery in Institute.

- $12 million Repairs to the Fort Hill Bridge (Interstate 64)

- $500,000 To city of Nitro, construction of a new public boat launch, ramp, dock, other facilities, including 50-vehicle parking lot.

By Justin D. Anderson
Daily Mail Capitol Reporter
dailymail.com


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