Justice Says Oct. 7 Vote Is Most Important State Will Make
During a Sept. 14 teleconference with state media, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said the Oct. 7 road bond referendum election is the “single biggest vote West Virginia has ever made in the state’s history.”
A vote in favor of the referendum would allow the sale of $1.6 billion in bonds over four years for road improvement projects across the state.
The projects would create around 48,000 jobs and result in $2.4 billion in roadwork and maintenance, Justice said.
If the bonds are approved, the state DOH would be able to expedite other projects, including secondary road projects. Department of Transportation District Six Engineering Gus Suwaid has previously said that without the vote for the referendum, and without the General Obligation Bonds, the $100 million Secondary State Local Service Roads program is cancelled.
Governor Justice referenced common concerns that voters have about the proposal. He said the endeavor will not raise taxes.
He said voting against the measure, for fearing of raising taxes, is “so un-West Virginian, and so untrue.”
“I don’t see how anyone could turn their backs on this,” Justice said.
Justice attributed his “Roads to Propserity” idea to God.
“Good ideas come to me from the Lord,” he said. “I take credit for the bad ones.”
Justice said he wants to see the road bond referendum pass “overwhelmingly,” with 85 to 90 percent approval. Justice said he wants to show the Trump administration that West Virginians “are in for themselves.” Justice said the Trump administration wants to help West Virginia.
“(The Trump administration) wants to know that West Virginians believe in West Virginia too.”
Justice said a vote in favor of the referendum will bring about the creation of “tens and tens of thousands of jobs.”
Also, “better roads bring us a better way of life, safer schools…” Justice said people are turned away from a state that does not have a good way of life.
“We’ve been last and fiftieth in things,” Justice said of the state’s current status.
Thomas Smith, Cabinet Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said some smaller projects, as part of the governor’s “Roads to Prosperity” initiative, have already started. These projects are smaller, secondary road projects. The larger projects would begin in early spring of 2018.
It was stated that 2/3 of the “Roads to Prosperity” vision comes from the bonds; Smith stressed that now is the perfect time to issue the bonds, due to lower interest rates.
Smith noted that there had been some criticism, via the public, concerning the projects chosen. He encouraged the public to reach out to him, or local district offices, with input.
As for the 48,000 jobs, Justice said it is hard to find 48,000 construction workers in the state. He stressed the importance of getting technical schools involved in the initiative, though he also said some of the jobs would allow for on-the-job training.
“The reality is that some jobs will be filled by out-of-state workers. We will try to fill every job with a West Virginia worker though,” Justice said.
Justice stated that it would be frivolous to consider out-of-state workers a bad thing, as these workers would invest in the state through payroll tax, grocery and gasoline purchases, and hotel fees.
Furthermore, Justice said, folks might come “home” to West Virginia, with the influx of jobs available.
Representatives from several state organizations and associations, along with state officials, voiced their support for the road bond referendum, including Chelsea Ruby, West Virginia Tourism Commissioner; Chris Hamilton, West Virginia Business and Industry Council and the West Virginia Coal Association; Mike Clowser, Contractors Association of West Virginia; Dale Lee, West Virginia Education Association; Steve White, Affiliated Construction Trades of West Virginia; and Carol Fulks, West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.
The best known “general bond” project for the Wetzel County area is the WV 2 Widening project, where the road would be widened to four lanes from Proctor to Kent. Secondary road projects, that could be expedited if the referendum passes, are the following:WV 7 Safety Improvements, Renners Bridge (Replace), Van Camp Bridge (Minor Rehab), Galmish Bridge (Minor Rehab), Wade Bridge (Replace), Slide Repair, NHS Pavement Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, and Non-NHS Pavement Reconstruction and Rehabilitation.
Projects that do not appear to be in any danger are Short Line Road (Resurfacing), WV Slip Repair (PO slip repairs Diforce Soil Nails), and Smithfield, Bates Run Road (CT Resurfacing, Guardrail, Drainage). The Short Line Road resurfacing project appears to be an accelerated project, with Federal Aid Funding. Meanwhile, the WV Slip Repair and Smithfield, Bates Run Road projects appear to be “Pay-as-you-go” projects, paid for with DMV fees, gas tax, and privilege tax revenues. It was noted, in Thursday’s meeting, that Constitutionally, these funds must be invested in roads.
Proctor Bridge replacement is allocated as being funded by “Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle Bond 2.”
A complete list of the “Road to Prosperity” projects is available at www.transportation.wv.gov