Wood County Republican Executive Committee voted to oppose Road Bond

PARKERSBURG, W.Va.- (WTAP) Update: 9/20/2017 4:25 P.M.

The Wood County Republican Executive Committee voted overwhelmingly to oppose the October 7th Road Bond election on Tuesday.

At their scheduled monthly meeting, committee members chose to oppose the road bond and the unlimited taxes tolls and fee increases within it.

The proposed bond would provide $1.6 billion in funding during the next five years for numerous projects across the state, including two in Wood County.

Wood County GOP representatives say it violates the state party plat-form in several different parts.

“First of all it raises taxes,” says Wood County Chairman Rob Cornelius. “It raises the gasoline tax; it raises the tax on when you buy a car. It also raises DMV fees and tolls. Folks are saying they have already raised the taxes, and that the bond is already paid for. That is not correct. There is nothing in the bond language, in the ballot, or in the law they passed that limits future tax increases."

In Parkersburg last week, Governor Jim Justice claimed he planned to at least double tolls and consider tolling new roads in the northern tier of the state.

Update: 9/15/2017 4:00 P.M.

Gov. Jim Justice says the general obligation bond issue-the object of October's road bond election-is a "no-brainer" for West Virginia.

He promoted the issue Friday at a town hall meeting in Parkersburg.

Speaking to the News Center after the meeting, the governor admitted the special election is a personal issue for him.

He spent 45 minutes answering questions for a combination of local elected officials-including City Councilman Eric Barber and Wood County Commissioner and former Parkersburg mayor Jimmy Colombo-businessmen, and members of the general public.

He said the $1.6 billion from the sale of bonds not only would fund a large number of state highway projects, it might help attract federal highway dollars in the future.

But he had a dire prediction if voters don't approve the issue.

"Somebody designates themself to be the last person to turn out the lights when everybody's gone," the governor told his audience in Parkersburg Council Chambers. "If we don't do this, in all honesty, West Virginia will somehow survive, but it will be bad."

West Virginia's economy recently was ranked last in a national cable business network survey.

But State Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who spoke directly before the governor, said the Mountain State currently ranks second only to Texas in recent business growth.

Passage of the road bond, he said, would be a way of keeping that momentum going.

UPDATE: 9/14/2017, 3:52 P.M.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice will be visiting Parkersburg Friday morning for a town-hall meeting.

The governor and Transportation Secretary Tom Smith will be talking with Mid-Ohio Valley leaders and residents about the proposed statewide road-bond election coming up on Oct. 7.

The meeting, which will be open to the public, will be at 10 a.m. in the City Council Chambers at Parkersburg City Hall, at One Government Square in downtown Parkersburg.

Afterwards, the governor will head to Jackson County for a similar meeting at Ripley City Hall, located at 203 South Church St. That meeting is set for 12:30 p.m.

The proposed bond would provide $1.6 billion in funding during the next five years for numerous projects across the state, including two in Wood County.

One is the proposed widening of W.Va. Rt. 2 between Wood and Ohio counties. The other is the much-discussed widening of state Rt. 14 in the Pettyville area between the Wal-Mart complex in south Parkersburg and Mineral Wells.

WTAP is planning to livestream the meeting on our Facebook page.

For a list of the state projects covered under the proposed referendum, go to the "Hot Button" at www.thenewscenter.tv.

UPDATE: 9/13/2017 5:35 P.M.

As October's special election inches closer, West Virginia transportation officials are making their case on the road bond referendum.

It's $1.6 billion in funding during the next five years-something that, to voters, may sound like a lot of money.

But the Department of Transportation believes it can save the state money, by getting key projects started sooner.

While the legislature back in June approved highway funding, the DOT says if the issue fails, that money would pay for projects one at a time rather than on a long-term basis.

Transportation officials say because the costs of construction are expected to increase over a period of several years-as they have since 2000-the state would save more in the long run.

"We've added to that with the taxes that were already implemented by the legislature," says DOT planner Perry Keller, "and we're using that additional tax to pay for these bonds, so we're not affecting our normal program."

Keller says the additional money from the sale of bonds also would pay for long-term safety improvements, especially on some of West Virginia's worst highways and bridges.

A simple majority of "yes" votes is needed for passage of the road bond issue.

Update: 8/29/2017 5:35 P.M.

We now know how passage of the West Virginia Road Bond referendum might affect some long-awaited highway projects in our area.

A list of those projects has been released by the state.

As reported earlier, one such project is the proposed widening of West Virginia route 2 between Wood and Ohio counties.

Another major-and also widely discussed-widening would be state route 14 in the Pettyville area, between the Wal-Mart complex in South Parkersburg and Mineral Wells.

The state proposes $15 million for that project.

If approved by voters October 7, the bond issue would allow the state to borrow up to $1.6 billion for a long list of road projects, in nearly all of the state's 55 counties.

For a list of all state projects slated for funding under the proposed WV Road Bond referendum, go to the "Hot Button" at www.thenewscenter.tv.

Update: 8/25/2017

October seventh is the day West Virginia voters decide on a more than one and a half billion dollar road bond issue.

Gov. Jim Justice touts the measure as being important to the state's economic future.

But while agreeing improvements are needed in the state's road and highway system, not all lawmakers agree the issue is the best way to do that.

"You're talking $1.6 billion in debt for 25 years or more; you're going to have to pay back three times what you borrowed," said Sen. Mike Azinger (R-Wood). "I just think it's a bad idea. I don't think it's the time, and I think we can find other ways to get money for roads."

Azinger, while noting he voted against them, says increases in the state gas taxes and license fees can produce money to pay for highway improvements.

Update: 7/19/2017 3:00 P.M.

The outcome of a statewide road bond election in October could affect a hoped-for widening of West Virginia Route 2.

More than $156 million in the proposal would fund four projects, one of which is widening route 2 in Wood County.

An official with the authority promoting that project says the state funding is important, because it's unlikely it can be paid for with federal highway dollars.

"So, there isn't really any money for new projects," said Duane Heck, Secretary of the Route 2 and I-68 Authority. "With this bond money that's coming in, there are already four road projects already appropriated under the governor's program."

But Pleasants County Sen. Donna Boley, who is a member of the authority, questions whether the bond issue will be approved October 7th.

Boley says previous road bonds for lesser amounts of money have failed to win voter approval.

"The amendment does not increase taxes and instead levies monies already coming into the (state) road fund to make these projects a reality," Heck said.

The authority recently approved a resolution supporting the amendment.

UPDATE: 12/1/2016 4:45 P.M

Nearly 70 percent of people who took a new survey favor expansion and improvements for W.Va. Route 2 and Interstate 68.

The survey was done by the Route 2 and Interstate 68 Authority, which represents Woods and nine other West Virginia counties.

In the survey, 69 percent supported expanding Route 2, and 89 percent favored extending Interstate 68.

The authority's goal is to expand Route 2 from Parkersburg to Chester to a four-lane highway and to extend Interstate 68 from Interstate 79 to the Ohio Valley to connect to Route 2.

A total of 742 businesses and establishments were contacted to take the survey, but only 23 percent responded.

Still in the discussion stage: the widening of West Virginia Route 2 between Chester and Parkersburg to a four-lane highway.

Officials of the Route 2 and I-68 Highway Authority just met with the state's congressional delegation in the nation's capital.

Their goal is to seek federal funding for the planning and construction, which also includes extending Interstate 68 to the Ohio River.

"Congressman (David) McKinley is very keen on having a meeting with the heads of three municipal planning organizations in West Virginia," says Authority Secretary Duane Heck. "And the WWW (Interstate Planning Commission) is in the Parkersburg area."

Authority members were accompanied by local business and community leaders.

Present besides McKinley were U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito and representatives of Sen. Joe Manchin's office.

The authority lost funding earlier this year, due to state budget cuts. Heck says most of that lost money was made up through contributions from area counties..

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