Transport upgrades apparently were not a priority for West Virginia voters, with only 10% turning out for a special Saturday, Oct. 10 referendum. But of those who did, 75% approved a state constitutional amendment that propels a $2.8-billion project funding initiative, proposed earlier this year by Gov. Jim Justice (R).
In June, state legislators raised the gas tax by 3.5¢ per gallon and authorized hikes to motor-vehicle taxes and fees to provide revenue for the new bonds. Recent West Virginia Turnpike toll hikes are set to generate $500 million more in road bonds, earmarked for projects in southwest counties. West Virginia also expects to issue an additional $300 million in federally financed GARVEE bonds.
The total program encompasses more than 950 projects, from repaving to a major rehab-replacement of the I-70 bridge over the Ohio River in Wheeling, which will receive $172.5 million.
Part of the U.S. Route 52-Tolsia Highway, which straddles the state’s southwest border, would gain $150 million for upgrades to improve access to an intermodal facility.
Mike Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, notes that, while it is important to get projects underway, “having too many on the street at once might exceed the ability of state contractors to compete for them.” The state highway agency has yet to finalize an implementation schedule, but he expects projects to be released in phases over the next six to 18 months and involve a variety of delivery methods.
Louisiana was set to hold a special transportation funding vote on Oct 14. A constitutional amendment before voters requires revenue from new fuel taxes to be used solely for “project delivery, construction, and maintenance of transportation and capital transit infrastructure.”