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Margaret Staggers: Funding better highways will not be easy

IN our representative government, the people have spoken and want the role of the federal government to decrease, the federal budget to shrink and services to decline.

The support of our infrastructure is one federal program being transferred to the states.

How we as West Virginians will handle this is essentially up to West Virginians and their elected representatives.

Public safety, public transit, intra- and interstate commerce depend on adequate roads, rails and air facilities. We have inland ports to maintain.

The first impulse is to deny financial aid to our infrastructure.

Who wants increased fees, registrations and taxes?

But at a certain point in road deterioration, out-of-state traffic will find it easier to bypass our roads altogether. Toll high and long enough, and traffic bypasses.

If we leave excellent highways to end at almost impassible mountain stretches of road, then how can we complain that the highway has not enough traffic to finish the four lanes?

A recurring issue is GPS monitoring and concern about government snooping in private lives.

The state of West Virginia has no interest in installing GPS monitors for mileage tracking, because they have failed in other states, and in our own state, to monitor the vehicles in the state's fleet.

For years, the annual vehicle inspections have included a report to the state of the Vehicle Identification Number and the mileage when inspected.

It would seem fair to charge someone who drives the usual mileage of 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year less for the inspection fee than the driver of 40,000 to 50,000 miles per year.

Perhaps the legendary little old lady who only drives her car to church should pay a minimal fee.

A tip from my "geek" advisor: If you think you are being secretly monitored without your permission, you may prevent tracking signals by wadding up foil in your tires.

To prevent monitoring, you could also turn your cell phone off, disable your anti-theft device, LoJack and On Star.

We can take to the streets and protest, as the Greeks did their austerity measures, and bemoan the increases in state highway maintenance money as the federal money dries up.

We could abandon the county roads, hand maintenance back to the counties, or we can spread the fees and cost increases fairly among the users of our transportation system.

It makes sense to give voters a chance to decide on a constitutional road bond amendment.

If we are ever able to toll another road in West Virginia, it makes sense to end the Turnpike tolls to reassure potential users of local toll-and-build projects that they are not indentured to toll fees forever.

It makes sense to have legislation ready as soon as possible to start the painful process of moving away from our reliance on federal money.

If our plans make everyone slightly upset, we will have found a middle ground and can proceed to accept responsibility for our own destiny.

Let's come together as citizens of the great state of West Virginia and solve this problem.

Delegate Staggers, D-Fayette, is chairwoman of the House Committee on Roads and Transportation.


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