(01/19/2016)
House and Senate Republicans in the West Virginia Legislature promised to do something about West Virginia's crumbling road and bridge system.

According to studies the state has among the worst infrastructure in the nation, including resurfacing of highways now on a cycle of over 30 years.

West Virginians for Better Transportation, a coalition of about 300 organizations and groups around the state, hosted its annual Transportation Day at the state Capitol to draw attention to the plight of the state's roads and bridges.

Carol Fulks, chairwoman of the group, said the neighboring states of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio recently increased funding for infrastructure repairs and upgrades, and urged state lawmakers to follow suit.

Public relations manager George Manahan said the group West Virginians for Better Transportation is kicking off a massive media campaign to get its message out now.

"When are we going to fix our roads?" an exasperated Manahan asked before the event. "It's always next year."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin did not specifically talk about fixing roads during his recent State of the State address.

The state is facing an expected budget shortfall of at least $350 million.

But Republicans in both the Senate and House told dozens of people gathered at the Capitol that they understand the importance of fixing roads and hope to do something about it despite the massive deficit.

"We understand it's going to be a tough budget year," said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. Armstead said legislators are conducting an audit of the state highway system to try to find areas where they can save money, and are aware that good roads are a key component of economic growth in the state.

"Roads need to be a priority through all our budget process," he said.

Senator Chris Walters, R-Putnam, is chairman of the Senate's transportation committee. Walters said Republican lawmakers will not go along with a proposal by Tomblin to cut $10 million out of the state's secondary roads fund.

Legislators are facing a tough challenge, since many of them campaigned against new taxes.


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