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How They're Paid For

Updated: 2/15/2034 6:20 PM

While we think of streets like Murdoch avenue and nearby Emerson avenue as being Parkersburg streets, they're actually part of state highways, route 14 and route 68, that are owned and maintained by the state of West Virginia.

"It's (the state's) responsibility to pave them, it's their responsibility to salt them," says Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell. "In the city, we have 300 miles of city-owned streets to maintain and salt, so we couldn't take over their responsibility."

The mayor notes that the now-two-year old user fee has given the city more funds for the upkeep of those city-owned streets. The group West Virginians for Better Transportation is hoping the state can get what it believes is much-needed money for the upkeep of those state highways.

"West Virginia is dramatically under-funding its support for transportation," group spokesman Joe Deneault said Thursday in Charleston. "That's been borne out by the Blue Ribbon Commission and its meetings. And while that's preliminary, it's obvious we have a huge shortfall in funding for transportation."

That extra money could come as a result of an increase in the state gas tax. Something that would not be a popular idea, with gas prices rising as they have this week. Prices rose again Friday in some areas, to $3.89 a gallon.

Longtime residents recall the sign at the toll booth, saying, " This bridge paid for by toll, not by taxes". Mayor Newell says that's still essentially true today.

The mayor says bridge tragedies of recent years have led to new government regulations requiring more bridge inspections and upkeep. meaning that, while some of the toll revenues might have gone to the street fund before, today, they're all used for its upkeep.

Newell says it's the city's goal to keep the 60 year old bridge in use indefinitely.

"If the state had taken it, it would let it live its life out, and then close it. The advantage to the city owning it is that it will stay open, but the money has to come from somewhere."

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin did not propose any tax increases in his message to the legislature Wednesday night.

That means any plan to raise the gas tax would come from the legislature itself.

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What would you pay to make sure the roads are safely paved?

It's a question the West Virginia legislature may ask this session.

More than 40 groups Wednesday gathered at the capital promoting upgrades to the state's highways.

Money to improve them has been tight in recently, and one way to change that is raising the state gas tax.

That's coming as gas once again is nearing $4 a gallon.

"I truly most people won't mind paying paying another penny or five cents a fill-up, than they would paying $150 for a new alignment every six months," said Senate President Jeff Kessler. "So I think folks don't mind if they know it's going to be done."

The statewide coalition West Virginians for Better Transportation says action needs to be taken now to make sure jobs and safe roads are there.

A blue ribbon commission is also examining the state's transportation needs.


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