West Virginia ranks 40th compared to the other 50 states when it comes to road quality, according to a recent survey, but state highway officials say numerous factors aren’t taken into consideration.
A personal-finance website called WalletHub recently released a report on 2020’s best and worst states to drive in. WalletHub is based in Washington, D.C., and owned by Evolution Finance, Inc., a parent company of the credit card website CardHub. The report data covered such things as average gas prices, rush-hour traffic congestion and road quality.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Division of Highways is in charge of the state’s road maintenance.
“Rural is not considered in surveys and reports or terrain. Also, the DOH is responsible for the sixth largest network of highways in the country,” said Brent Walker of the DOH communications department. “That’s 36,000 miles of state and county roads. Only about five or six other states are responsible for the breadth of roads we have. Years ago, the legislature determined that counties in the state couldn’t afford to take care of the roads. The state does it now.”
Walker said focusing on the maintenance of secondary roads became particularly important with the creation of the Roads to Prosperity program last year. The program consisted of a one-time $100 million transfer of the budget surplus for secondary road repairs.
“We’ve always had a maintenance focus. This money allowed us to purchase the equipment needed for maintenance,” said Jake Bumgarner, director of DOH operations division. “The remaining $50 million from the Roads to Prosperity Program will be used for slip and slide work and repairs for small bridges.”
Slide work involves work on the hills or rocks that slide into roadways. The slips are roads affected by slides and the land below them.
Walker added that the DOH has made great strides in maintenance work on secondary roads. A large amount of ditching has been taking place to keep water off roadways, he said.
“People here use secondary roads to get to main thoroughfares,” Walker said. “But we can’t pave every road. We use a triage approach. Some projects get deferred if there are problems in another area like road damage from storms. We have to prioritize.”
West Virginia’s mountains don’t present the only challenges for maintenance crews.
“There are major traffic areas. Navigation becomes an issue when a lane is closed for both crews and residents. There are a whole bevy of issues,” Walker said.