POINT PLEASANT — The completion of U.S. 35 was a hot topic at a meet the legislators event on Friday night at the Mason County Library.
Attending and organizing the event were Delegates Jim Butler and Scott Cadle. Sen. Mitch Carmichael was unable to attend due to inclement weather.
As Cadle put it, when it comes to getting U.S. 35 completed, “the squeaky wheel” gets the grease. Both Cadle and Butler echoed the recent sentiments of the Mason County Commission, urging citizens, local government and business organizations to contact Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office with letters supporting the road’s completion, minus tolls. Butler and Cadle said in their experience a handwritten letter seems to get the best response.
“We want to be respectful to the governor but we want to tell him we want it done,” Butler said about the letters.
Resurrecting the completion of 14.6 miles of U.S. 35 has been on the minds of many since the passage of Senate Bill 190 into law. Otherwise known as the public-private partnership bill, language in the law allows for private financing of the road and approval of plans by the state highway commissioner, as opposed to the legislature. SB 190 also does away with change orders for projects - something not all contractors are happy with, according to Butler and Cadle. In addition, not all contractors are large enough to bid on the U.S. 35 project so some are banding together to submit. Butler and Cadle said they were told by West Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox, Jr., at least two smaller contractors were partnering up to possibly bid on the project and one large contractor has already put in an unsolicited bid.
Butler and Cadle said Mattox told them if the project is approved, more bids are expected to come in. Though they gave no specifics, the delegates told those at the meeting they have seen the preliminary plans to complete U.S. 35 and have been told its possible construction could begin in the spring - if the project is ever given the green light.
Butler said the completion of the road is at the top of the list in terms of highway projects the Department of Highways wants to see completed. When asked if he believed U.S. 35 would be funded through the provisions allowed in SB 190, Butler said he was 90 percent sure it would happen. Cadle also felt confident about the project moving forward.
In addition, Butler and Cadle spoke about other legislative concerns, including the need to bring manufacturing jobs to the area; to reduce the business equipment tax; to streamline Freedom of Information Act requests; continuing to sponsor pro-Second Amendment bills. Butler also spoke about Andrea’s Law which he sponsored which would’ve provided tougher drunk driving penalties but didn’t pass.
Both men also expected discussion and possible bills dealing with the legalization of medical marijuana and needing a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine would likely be introduced by other delegates or senators in the legislative session which begins in January.
In regard to U.S. 35 completion, to contact Tomblin by mail, send letters to: Office of the Governor, State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East, Charleston, WV 25305. To contact the governor by phone, call (304) 558-2000 or 1-888-438-2731. To contact the governor via email, go to his official website at http://www.governor.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx, then click on “contact us” and “submit a comment.”