WV delegates learn how Va. is handling its highway issues - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

West Virginia delegates learn how Virginia is handling its highway funding issues

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The House Minority Chairman of Roads and Transportation Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, committee members Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson and Gary Howell, R-Mineral spent Wednesday at Virginia's capitol in Richmond, meeting with the Virginia Speaker of the House William Howell, R-Stafford to discuss how Virginia is handling its highway funding issues.

Like West Virginia, Virginia has a highway system in which the state maintains the roads outside of the city streets.  Knowing no two areas are the same, they came up with ideas to address the different needs of different areas. 

"I was impressed with Virginia idea of 'Smart Transportation Pilot Zones' that will allow regions to develop unique solutions to their area," said Cowles. "These are ideas that can work in West Virginia, especially in areas with high traffic counts like Martinsburg and Morgantown, to come up with cost effective solutions."  

Virginia is developing a 'Virginia Transportation Solutions Working Group' to operate within the Virginia Department of Transportation. The group will be tasked with brainstorming new and innovative ideas to address traffic issues, like performance pricing, reforming traffic operations & technological solutions. Virginia is also planning to use a non-partisan outside review to keep politics out of project planning.  The Texas Transportation Institute will be providing that service.

Espinosa stated, "I was impressed with Virginia's forward thinking of creating a Statewide Transportation Priority Standard.  It will look at Traffic Capacity, Safety and Economic Development before moving forward on projects.  To me that is a common sense approach that spends taxpayer money wisely." 

"Where West Virginia's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways failed to look at waste in the system, Virginia did.  They did an audit of VDOT and found 1.2 billion dollars sitting unused in various transportation accounts and put it to work. I am sure an audit of WVDOT would also find 'misplaced" funds, but we have to actually look," remarked Howell.  "Virginia didn't just look within its own borders for solutions.  They pulled them in from all around and this was exactly what our trip was about.  We want to take the best practices and implement them here.  If there is one thing I can take away from the meeting it's, we just don't ask what a bridge or road cost, but what does it deliver to the taxpayer," stated Delegate Gary Howell. 

"We learned a lot and we are still digesting it," Cowles said. "I hope this is just a start to more meetings that will benefit West Virginia taxpayers."

The delegation will report their findings to their colleagues at next week's interim meetings.