Letter to the editor
For West Virginia to prosper, we must reform the way we design, build and maintain our highways. After more than a century of highway construction, many counties do not have four-lane highways and there are no highways connecting major parts of VM. At the current rate, the expansion of WV Route 2 from Huntington to Newell will hardly ever come at the cost of billions of dollars. There are no four lanes connecting our capital to the eastern and northern enclaves without passing through another state.
We need to drastically reduce the cost and time of building and maintaining roads. The current system, created by so-called professionals and bureaucrats, benefits current participants. They think the system only needs taxpayers who work harder and send more money to Charleston. Continuing to pump money into the current system will only lead to additional roads slowly being built to mediocrity. Current participants should have little, if anything, to do with creating a new system.
Taking years to procure chunks of land often using our expensive and broken legal system, starting over with every design, dozens of people scratching with relatively puny pieces of earthmoving equipment, etc., will get us nowhere. . Borrowing money for 26 years to repav roads with asphalt that only lasts 7 years is not a long-term solution. Our grandchildren will pay off the debt as they drive through potholes fleeing the state.
The state should undertake a complete overhaul of the current system of design, construction and maintenance of highways. We must encourage and help the private sector develop new equipment on the scale needed to build highways at a rate of miles per day, not inches per decade. New equipment that uses tens of thousands of horsepower rather than a few hundred to arrange the terrain quickly, such as long wall mining machines must be designed, tested and built.
West Virginia has the people and the inventiveness as well as the ability to rethink highway building. We need to cut costs by 90% and speed up the process by a factor of 10. Current participants never will; they will say it is not possible and they will do everything in their power to hinder progress. Much like Boeing and NASA would never have built a reusable rocket, neither Henry Frod’s competitors ever built a $ 260 car.
If VM is to progress economically, we need modern highways in every crack and crevice, built faster and more cost effectively. Manufacturing bigger and better equipment to build and maintain highways could be a job-creating export industry for West Virginia. First, we must have the courage to send the current system to the ash heap of history. It is about failing miserably to our people.