MASON COUNTY — The completion of U.S. 35 remains very much on the minds of local legislators and government officials.
This week, Delegate Jim Butler (R) reported he wrote to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin about the project. Butler also said he’s been trying to secure a meeting with the governor about the project as is Sen. Mike Hall.
In addition, to Butler’s letter, members of Point Pleasant City Council this week decided to draft individual letters to the governor supporting the project which many feel will not only make the highway safer but open up economic development.
This week, West Virginia Commissioner of Highways Paul Mattox appeared on the West Virginia State Journal’s Decision Makers program on a local news station and spoke about U.S. 35. He talked about the private-public partnership legislation which is now in place which could allow the completion of the 14.6 miles of U.S. 35 through Mason and Putnam counties. Mattox described the private-public partnership legislation as a “procurement tool” which the state could use to complete expansion projects in West Virginia that are a priority. He explained the legislation, which involves using a private contractor, would allow projects to get started now and let let the public use them now while paying for them over time.
Mattox said the department of highways is looking to move forward on its latest six-year program which includes various highway projects of which the completion of U.S. 35 is one. He said the completion of U.S. 35 would be a good candidate for the use of the legislation and it was one that was being taken very seriously. He also said the completion of U.S. 35 was one of Gov. Tomblin’s priorities.
The private-public partnership legislation does allow for roads to be paid for using tolls but that doesn’t mean that will happen on U.S. 35. However, the possibility is there in terms of a possible term of payment to pay back the contractors. Again, this doesn’t mean it will happen on U.S. 35, it just means the law allows it.
Del. Butler submitted a copy of his letter to Gov. Tomblin to the Point Pleasant Register this week. The letter touches upon tolling and Butler’s stance against it. Butler wrote about attending public hearings in the past when tolling was such a hot topic and wrote Tomblin: “As a legislator now, and a member of the Transportation Committee in the House of Delegates, I am well aware of the financial difficulties that we face when it comes to roads, but tolling this road did not make good financial sense two years ago, and I don’t think that it would now.”
Butler also stressed to Tomblin the unacceptable number of serious crashes on the section of U.S. 35 which remains two lanes and asked the governor to consider what the completion of the road could mean for economic development not only for the counties the road traverses but the entire state.
Last week, the Mason County Commission started urging citizens to let Tomblin know how they feel about the completion of U.S. 35. during what could be an opportune time for the project to be finally finished.