An audit of the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) maintenance budget confirms that extra money spent on road maintenance the past several years is paying off in better roads throughout West Virginia.
“The overall increase in funding and subsequent increase in maintenance expenditures has resulted in a large growth of completed projects by the WVDOH,” the legislative audit report says. “The additional funding has assisted the WVDOH to more than double the total number of completed projects from calendar year 2019 to 2022 while steadily increasing production each successive year.
In 2019, in conjunction with Gov. Jim Justice’s $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity program, Gov. Justice and the WVDOH launched the Secondary Roads Initiative, which specifically targets the roads West Virginians drive on every day for previously underfunded maintenance work.
The initiative helped the WVDOH return to what state Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E., calls the “roots” of the WVDOH as a maintenance organization to take care of existing infrastructure, and allowed for an increased emphasis on core maintenance.
Core maintenance includes milling and filling potholes to keep roads smooth, clearing ditches to keep water off roadways, removing brush and trees from overhead to allow the sun in to dry off wet roads, and stabilizing gravel roads. WVDOH has also worked to increase the capability of its workforce, providing equipment and training necessary to use its own crews for paving and pile wall drilling projects in addition to those let to contractors in order to pave more miles and repair more slides.
Since 2019, Gov. Justice and the West Virginia Legislature have provided the WVDOH in more than $477 million in supplemental budget appropriations and budget transfers for highway maintenance.
According to a report issued by the West Virginia Legislative Auditor’s office, the spending on maintenance is paying off.
“Overall, the recent emphasis placed on maintenance will benefit the state for years to come,” legislative auditors concluded. “Recent maintenance efforts made by the WVDOH, and additional funding provided by the Legislature has allowed the state to perform additional necessary overdue roadway maintenance. Underfunding of roadway maintenance is not just an issue plaguing West Virginia, but an issue the nation is facing.”
“We are getting more efficient,” Wriston told the Legislature’s Post Audits Subcommittee during legislative interim meetings in December. “We have returned to our roots.”
In the meeting, Wriston was asked about the audit results. “This is telling us that our folks are doing a good job,” he said.
In 2022, in partnership with West Virginia Tourism, WVDOH debuted three Mountain Rides scenic routes; Seneca Skyway, Capitol Circle, and Cranberry Corridor. Ribbons were cut on major projects including the much anticipated Nitro WWI Memorial Bridge. WVDOH broke its record for tree canopy clearing with 170 acres cleared during a season. With an increase in work zones of all types and sizes in all 55 counties, WVDOH is encouraging drivers to remain alert in every work zone, every time. While the pace of work continues to speed up, motorists are encouraged to slow down.