CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginians will see more deteriorating roads and greater congestion over the next 25 years unless something is done to shore up highway funding, analysts told a state infrastructure committee Thursday.
The infrastructure committee of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways held its first meeting at the state Capitol Thursday morning.
The committee will spend the next month determining the state's road needs in the coming decades so state lawmakers can find a way to adequately fund them.
Their goal is to analyze the highway system's maintenance and construction needs in light of an ever-shrinking pool of federal funds.
"Our function here is to try to determine the adequate level of needs to serve our citizens," said Commission Chairman Joe Deneault, who is also chairman of West Virginians for Better Transportation.
Jason Pizatella, legislative director for the Tomblin administration, said the infrastructure committee is one of three panels tasked with forming a long-term, sustainable plan for state roads.
The other committees are to come up with a revenue scheme to fund the road system and proposed legislation.
"Once infrastructure committee makes its recommendations, probably some time in mid-January, then the revenue committee will try to decide how to fund them," Pizatella said.
The third committee is to sell the plan to lawmakers and the general public.
The plan could include diverting state general revenue funds to the state road fund or increasing gas taxes or other fees charged to state residents.
"Everything is on the table," Pizatella said. "The federal funds are less and less, so it's going to fall to states more and more - so we've got make sure we're ready to step up."
On Thursday, consultants from CDM Smith of Charleston presented the committee with an analysis of the state's road needs over the next 25 years.
Actually, there were two analyses: one assuming current constrained revenues and the other an unconstrained wish list.
If money were no object, the state could spend $36.8 billion on expanding, modernizing and preserving state roads over the next quarter century.
"This is the ceiling for if you have all the money in the world as a state to invest," said consultant David Hurst. "It would be basically $8 billion for expansion, modernization is $14.9 billion . . . and preservation is $13.8 billion."