- Associated Press - Friday, August 12, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Citing dwindling state coffers, West Virginia contractors have publicly rebuked a large redevelopment plan that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin unveiled in his State of the State address earlier this year.

The West Virginia Contractor’s Association said in a statement that it could not support spending $99.8 million to build a 2.6-mile highway to the reclaimed Hobet surface coal mine in Boone County when so much money is needed just to maintain the existing highway system, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported (https://bit.ly/2blzkGg).

Mike Clowser, the group’s executive director, says the State Road Fund, which is used to repair roads and bridges throughout the state, has already been hurt from declining revenue. The fund’s revenue fell nearly 7 percent over the past fiscal year to $691.5 million.

“Our association is probably one of the biggest proponents of the ‘build it and they will come’ strategy, but we cannot support diverting money from an already distressed State Road Fund to build this project,” Clowser said.

During his State of the State address, Tomblin portrayed the project and accompanying roadway as the best way to diversify the southern West Virginia economy. One possible fit for the site, among others, would be automotive-related companies, Tomblin said.

The state applied for a $40 million federal transportation grant for the project, but that proposal was not approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation this year. The state can apply for the grant again next year, said Jessica Tice, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office.

Without that federal grant, the entire cost of the project would be up to the state to cover.

“Until we can pass legislation to provide additional funding for West Virginia’s highway transportation system, the CAWV has to oppose the Boone County project,” Clowser said.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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