Whether it is concern about the safety of the road or when the new highway will be complete, the issue of the new U.S. 35 is certainly a popular subject in Mason County. On Monday, a meeting was held at the Mason County Courthouse to discuss the status of construction of the U.S. 35.
The public meeting was hosted by the West Virginia Department of Transportation Division of Highways in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration. Several residents attended the meeting, which was set up in a workshop-style format.
Greg Bailey of the Division of Highways gave a brief presentation regarding U.S. 35. Bailey described the meeting as an attempt to inform the public of U.S. 35’s status and to discuss the environmental re-evaluation and tolling potential of U.S. 35 in Putnam and Mason Counties.
The new U.S. 35 is almost complete, with the exception of a slightly less than 15 mile stretch, which extends from Beech Hill (Mason County Rt. 40) to Pliny (W.Va. 869 Buffalo Bridge, Putnam County). The 14.6 mile stretch of highway currently has no funding, which has stalled completion of U.S. 35.
According to Bailey, one way to fund the 14.6 mile stretch is to implement a toll system.
“We are declaring to the public that we are considering the possibility of putting tolls on Rt. 35 as a means to finance the highway,” Bailey said.
He emphasized that nothing has been set in stone in regard to charging motorists a toll for using the road.
“If tolling became a reality there would be future public meetings on details regarding tolls — location, rates, ect.,” Bailey said.
He added that preliminary research has indicated that rates could range from $1-$4, which would be the total paid for traveling one direction on the highway. Bailey also displayed a map of several possible locations where the toll booths would be located. DOH reps stressed that even though a toll is not a popular option, something must be done to fund the highway’s completion in order to avoid future accidents.
However, one Point Pleasant resident is strongly opposed to a toll being charged for use of U.S. 35.
“I am against putting a toll on Rt. 35. Why don’t they get stimulus money to fund it?” Janice Sayre said.
Alice Click, a Mason County resident who owns property on U.S. 35, said that her main concern is the safety of the highway, which is why she will support a toll.
“I want to see them build the highway, No one likes tolls or increased taxes, but we need that road complete to save lives,” Click said.
Eddie Morgan of Pliny said that the location of the proposed toll booth would allow him to decide whether he supported the possible tolling of U.S. 35. Morgan said that he believed it was unfair for residents who live on U.S. 35 to pay a toll.
Following the presentation, those in attendance were able to speak with several DOH representatives regarding the U.S. 35 project. Maps of the highway also were on display.
Those wishing to file written comments regarding U.S. 35 were encouraged to do so by sending letters to Gregory Bailey, P.E. Director, Engineering Division, West Virginia Division of Highways, Capitol Complex Building Five-Room 450, Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston, WV 25305-0430 on or before Aug. 16.