Money Needed to Maintain the Roads for Heavy Trucks

by Duane Nichols on February 2, 2012

The state Division of Highways is monitoring road damage resulting from gas drilling operations to ensure companies make repairs. Increased traffic on state and county roads is due to the Marcellus shale development activities, in addition to coal and logging trucks.  The operations require huge, heavy vehicles carrying water, sand and equipment. District 6 engineer and acting manager Dan Sikora said that roads in the Northern Panhandle weren’t designed for such heavy traffic, and some smaller back roads “are just gone.” Often, when a drilling job was completed, “there wouldn’t be anything left,” he said. “It’s bad. It just got ahead of us. Nobody saw this coming.”

The DOH doesn’t have the manpower or the money to fix the damage, but Sikora said oil and gas companies are bonded and are cooperating with the agency. “They are committed, and they are out there working with us. Roads are being repaired according to the amount of damage,” he said. “We know there are problems,” Sikora said. “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of trucks traveling these roads. The roads are constantly being pounded.”

The three phases of a gas well development — drilling, fracking, and completion – require over 500 one-way truck trips for each well with some at perhaps 50 tons fully loaded.  See pictures here.

 According to a story carried on WTRF-TV (Wheeling), the Sheriff’s vehicles are taking a beating on the roads: “Torn up roadways are not just a problem for Marshall County residents anymore. They are also damaging sheriff’s vehicles. Potholes, unlevel and unpaved roads are all problems that can create havoc on our car, and havoc for local law enforcement vehicles. “Ball joints are wearing out sooner, and wheels are getting bent from hitting deep holes. We have to put more money in our cars to keep them on the road,” Marshall County Sheriff John Gruzinskas said.

On November 8th, a report was presented here in FrackCheckWV on the American Ridge Road in Wetzel county.  We recall this:  Generally, roads and bridges in West Virginia are in need of better maintenance. Dashle Kelly, a doctoral fellow at WVU, has proposed that WV implement user fees on the roads throughout the State to collect adequate monies to repair and maintain the roads and bridges.  He says that the existing Road Fund has been depleted so not enough current tax revenue is available.”

According to the Charleston Daily Mail on January 13th, WV Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox has proposed that the Legislature put a road bond into the upcoming election cycle at about $1.5 billion to fund 17 road projects statewide.  However, the Governor’s office said that Gov. Tomblin has no such plans in mind.  The Governor vetoed a bill from last year for $40 million from increased fees by the Division of Motor Vehicles.

“I don’t foresee the legislation coming before the members this session, unless voters begin appealing to legislators to address the issue of jobs and road construction this year,” said Bob Beach (D-Monongalia).  Placing such a bond on the ballot requires a two-thirds approval in both the Senate and the House. “While constitutional amendments are often seen as a voter-determined outcome, nonetheless many legislators perceive bond issues as difficult to sell back home in their respective districts,” Beach said.

According to the Charleston Daily Mail, “Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said the idea might be an easier sell than some think.  He said the Legislature is already budgeting $3 million to compensate residents for damage to vehicles caused by state roads. He estimated that is about a tenth of the total damage motorists experience. “We can do this; it’ll make a big difference to the state and we should do it,” Hall said. “The Senate’s going to propose it even if the governor doesn’t.”

Mattox estimated that it would take $65 million to $75 million in state revenues each year to pay off a $1 billion bond over 30 years. More would be needed for a $1.5 billion bond that would allow for completion of Corridor H.  Even $100 million a year could easily be raised with fees on leasing, drilling/fracking, pipelines, separation/fractionation, and chemical ethane crackers if proactive planning was performed soon.

The recent report from the WV Center on Budget and Policy is entitled “Creating An Economic Diversification Trust Fund” and dated January 2012.  It is devoted to the concept of turning nonrenewable natural resources into sustainable wealth of West Virginia.  It seems very appropriate to use this information in the State government to set up revenue stream(s) that can serve our people, particularly regarding the infrastructure needs for our future.  And, clearly it must be the case that the sources of revenue should involve those industries that capitalize on our lands, our roads, our water, our air, and our existing infrastructure.

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WV Environmental Council February 3, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Center on Budget and Policy Annual Meeting

Tuesday, February 7, from 7:30-10:30 a.m. the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy will host a breakfast meeting at the Charleston Marriott. Titled, “Creating Sustainable Wealth from Non-Renewable Resources,” the forum will feature Ambassador Mike Sullivan, former Governor of Wyoming. He will talk about Wyoming’s experience with a permanent mineral trust fund.

WVEC will be doing whatever we can to encourage lawmakers to pass this type of legislation as soon as possible. It is such a simple idea that would have profound effects on our state. The Center has issued a report on the subject, which can be found at .

According to the report, if West Virginia had created such a program in 1980, the state would now have a trust fund with assets of nearly $1.9 billion — that’s BILLION, with a B.  If started now, the fund would generate revenues of $5.8 billion by 2035.  The report says:

If West Virginia wants future generations to benefit from the extraction of its natural resources, it must set aside a portion of the severance tax revenue from all natural resources to invest in important public structures that will build a stronger, more vibrant future for the state. To accomplish this task, West Virginia could follow the lead of six other energy states by creating a permanent severance tax trust fund (hereafter referred to as a permanent fund) that converts non-renewable natural resources into a source of sustainable wealth that serves the state today and in the future through targeted investing. Even after the state’s natural resources are depleted, West Virginia could use income from the fund to diversify the economy, make much-needed investments in infrastructure and human capital, lower future tax burdens, and deal with costs associated with past and future mineral extraction.

In all, it is a modest proposal – and one that we should all support. We all know that coal and natural gas will not last forever, and the costs of recovering our natural resources are too often paid in destruction of our land and in human lives and suffering by residents. Coal operators keeping selling us jobs, jobs, jobs and the coal counties have the lowest standard of living in the state. This is an attempt to change that dynamic.


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