SOUTHSIDE — A day after two semi-trucks collided, with one being pushed into a school bus on U.S. 35, there appears to be at least some public acknowledgment at the state level that completion of the infamous 14.6 miles of two lane is moving forward.
Completion of those two lanes of U.S. 35 through Mason and Putnam counties is defined as four lanes for many and for many more, four lanes without tolls.
On Wednesday, the Point Pleasant Register obtained a statement from Brent Walker, spokesperson for the West Virginia Division of Highways, given to West Virginia Metro News’ Hoppy Kercheval about DOH’s plans for completing U.S. 35.
The statement says:
“With the governor’s announcement of our first Public Private Partnership (PPP or 3P) project from SB 190 (3.3 miles of the Coalfields Expressway), we are hopeful the success of this process will serve as a model for future road project funding, specifically U.S. 35.”
The statement goes on to say: “The PPP procurement method allows us to have level payments and manage our cash flow. It (U.S. 35) continues to be an important project for the Division of Highways and we are looking at every possible way to move forward and complete that 14.6 mile stretch of two lane. We are nearly complete with the Right of Way (buying property) process, we are updating the environmental documents and, while we are still working through the details, our thinking is to have three contracts.”
Walker’s statement goes on to say those contracts will consist of two grade and drain (building the road bed) projects of nearly equal length and one long paving project. Walker notes DOH will have five bridges to construct on that stretch.
“Costs for each of the two grade and drain projects are projected to be around $80 million each, with the paving to hover around $50 million,” Walker said in his statement.
Another notable mention in Walker’s statement is that “if” DOH can “work through the details,” it wishes to advertise one of the grade and drain projects later this fall.
Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley read the statement from Walker on Wednesday and spoke via conference call, to Paul Mattox, secretary of WVDOH and Jason Pizatella, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s deputy chief of staff, about these developments. Handley said during the call that Mattox confirmed Walker’s statement. In addition, Mattox said a best-case scenario, in terms of construction, would be four years after it begins.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Handley said. “We’ll wait for the official announcement from the governor on it, but the way it looks right now we’re going to be getting a new four lane. I know a lot of this has been in the planning stage, but it’s never been to this point where these particulars have been mentioned, including a basic time line.”
Gov. Tomblin’s office was contacted multiple times on Wednesday for a statement reacting to Walker’s comments with the following being released via Communications Director Chris Stadelman: “Governor Tomblin continues to work hard to find ways to improve our state’s infrastructure, especially our roadways. The governor strongly supports the U.S. Route 35 project, in particular.”