|The hard work put in by the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) in implementing Gov. Jim Justice’s $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity program is paying off for the citizens of West Virginia, the Governor said in a press briefing on Wednesday, November 8, 2023.|
Of 1,263 bridge and highway projects undertaken through the Roads to Prosperity program, approximately 1,200 are currently complete. Since 2017, the WVDOT has paved approximately 9,000 miles of road, more than at any time in the state’s history.
“You have done an amazing job,” the Governor told state Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E. “That’s all there is to it. I hope to goodness that this audience and the media and many others would take heed to what has happened in the state Department of Transportation. We walked into a situation a few years back where we were upside. There were people who could not get to the grocery store because of the damage to the roads. Think about how this has changed.”
|When Governor Justice took office in 2017, West Virginia was in dire financial straits and struggling with a highway system plagued by decades of underinvestment in infrastructure. Governor Justice envisioned Roads to Prosperity as a way to immediately put people to work and rejuvenate the state’s ailing roads.|
“The Roads to Prosperity program saved the Department of Transportation; it saved the state,” Wriston said. “It laid the foundation for all the growth that we’ve seen in every sector across the state
“We’re having another record paving year, another record construction year, another record project development year. Today, we have over $4 billion of active contract construction projects going on all across the state of West Virginia. We also have nearly a billion dollars of contract consulting engineering happening right now, to come right behind it with more projects.
Roads to Prosperity has meant major progress on Gov. Justice’s “Big Three” projects: Corridor H, the King Coal Highway, and Coalfields Expressway. All of these projects are intended to open up West Virginia to economic development.
“Think about what is happening in this state,” Governor Justice said. “It is amazing. Sure, you can stub your toe here and there in doing the best you can do, but if you evaluate the progress made in the Department of Transportation in this state, Jimmy Wriston, you have done a whale of a job. Not only you but all those working with you. All of those pulling the rope with you, we absolutely thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
In addition to Roads to Prosperity – funded largely by bond sales – Governor Justice and Wriston convinced the West Virginia Legislature to grant several supplemental budget appropriations giving the WVDOT additional money each year to address rural roads. Without the extra money, it would be difficult for the WVDOT to address these routes.
“It is unbelievable what has happened in terms of taking care of our roads and upgrading our stuff,” Governor Justice said. “It drives economic growth to this state like crazy.
A cultural change within WVDOT and Governor Justice’s Secondary Roads Initiative returned WVDOT to a maintenance organization, concentrating on maintaining roads properly so they can last as long as possible.
“The work that these people are doing is terrific,” Governor Justice said. “Compared to where we have been, compared to decades ago when there were issues in the highways department like nobody’s business. The issues centered around not getting it done. Well, that has changed now.
Thanks to Governor Justice and the Legislature, the WVDOT was able to buy four massive drills and other equipment to fix slips and slides and do other heavy, complicated construction work. West Virginia’s equipment operators recently won first place in a regional competition showcasing their skill on equipment. If the field, finesse operating heavy equipment means safety for operators, the public and property.
“Congratulations to the team of operators and their expertise,” Governor Justice said.
In 2019, Governor Justice invited Division of Highways County Administrators from all 55 counties to a meeting where he asked him what they needed to get their jobs done. They told him they were spending too much time working on equipment and needed functional tools to work with.
“The Department of Transportation and the Division of Highways has new equipment,” the Governor said. “They perform, they have great operators and they are getting it done. It is amazing what they have achieved. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you. Let's keep it going because it is a huge economic driver to this state.”