Delegate Margaret Staggers announced plans Thursday to introduce a bill that would call for a constitutional amendment to put a $1.2 billion transportation bond on the ballot in November.
Staggers, D-Fayette, is chairwoman of the Roads and Transportation Committee of the House of Delegates. She made the announcement after a grim report on the state of West Virginia's transportation infrastructure.
One-third of West Virginia's locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and one third of West Virginia's bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards, according to a new report from TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research group.
Carolyn Bonifas Kelly, associate director of research and communication for TRIP, said West Virginia's rate of 1.78 fatalities per 100 million miles of travel in 2011 is the second-highest in the nation, behind Montana.
"We looked at all those numbers and came to the conclusion that in West Virginia, those all can be addressed by increasing infrastructure spending to keep the roads safe, most importantly, but also smooth and efficient so that business and commerce can flow through the state," Kelly said.
Staggers' announcement was met by a round of applause by about 200 transportation advocates, mostly clad in fluorescent safety vests, who packed the Capitol Rotunda for the event.
"This would be a bill to have a constitutional amendment, and the constitutional amendment would be on the ballot, and it would ask for a $1.2 billion road bond," Staggers explained. "As (Transportation Secretary Paul) Mattox told us last year, this would take care of the roads that are actually falling apart and get us to a place where we can start really improving the roads."
The TRIP report found that 12 percent of West Virginia's roads have pavement in poor condition; in downtown Charleston, that figure for locally and state-maintained roads jumps to 15 percent. It also estimated driving on rough roads cost the average West Virginia motorist an extra $333 in vehicle operating costs - an extra $400 million annually among all West Virginia motorists.