W.Va. road bond earns a ‘yes’ vote

For years, many West Virginians have complained about the sorry condition of many highways and bridges in our state, and wondered why someone didn’t do something about the problem.

Now whether the challenge is addressed is up to residents. It would be foolish not to seize the opportunity.

A referendum scheduled for Oct. 7 seeks voter approval of a $1.6 billion bond issue for highway and bridge repairs and improvements throughout the state. Early voting on the proposal began Friday.

If approved, the measure would allow state officials to sell $1.6 billion in bonds that would be augmented by nearly $300 million in other funds, including federal money. A list of 35 individual road projects to be undertaken has been circulated.

We have heard just two concerns about the plan. One is cost. Would new taxes be necessary to pay off the bonds?

No. State legislators approved about $130 million in higher fuel taxes and fees paid by vehicle owners this spring. That money, earmarked for the bond project, should be ample to cover it.

Another worry has been whether state officials plan to begin charging tolls for use of some roads. Interstate 70 in Ohio County is a special concern.

Gov. Jim Justice has said on multiple occasions that there is no plan to do that. Last week, he told Ohio County residents that, “At the end of the day, that is not an issue on my radar in any way, shape, form or fashion. We need to forget the tolling. That’s all there is to it.”

To his credit, Justice added that, “nobody being truthful could tell you that we are not (at some time in the future) of the world ever going to toll anything.”

Give the governor credit for not closing options to state officials in the future. For now, however, establishing new toll roads is not a consideration — and should not be.

Approval of any bond issue in West Virginia requires an amendment to the state Constitution. This one is titled the “Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017.” Though the ballot language appears somewhat complex, the issue for Northern Panhandle voters is simple: Approval of the measure will clear the way for nearly $300 million in highway and bridge improvements in the area. It will require no new ta

xes — and no new toll roads.

Funding for highways and bridges is needed desperately in our state. For that reason, we endorse the road bond amendment and recommend local residents vote “yes” on it.