This is one of those “back in the day” stories your grandma would probably come up with, but it depends on how old grandma is as to what part of “the day” she is referring to. I’m talking about the early 70’s in the heart of West Virginia. Since it is common for people to forget quickly how things USED to be not so very long ago, I’ll remind you, and if you were only a gleam in someone’s eye at the time, I’ll educate you.
The “roads” back then were incredibly bad. We used to swear the highway department was in cahoots with the local auto mechanics. The main roads were full of pot holes, some of which you could lose a VW Bug in. The back roads were basically two dirt tracks with grass growing in between and saplings growing right up to the edge, and THAT was in the summer! In the winter it was ruts two feet deep, and slithering sideways with someone pushing on the side of the car to keep it from going over a cliff. Bridges tended to be “get-out-of-your-vehicle-and-study-the-situation” deals, then say a prayer and go… The old iron Egypt Ridge Bridge on the Roane/Calhoun line had big holes in it and someone had thoughtfully placed planks lengthwise the entire length of the bridge, UN-NAILED, to drive across the holes. Crossing it required stopping, walking out onto the rotting bridge and re-placing the planks which were warped and moved when driven upon, into their correct spots, then holding your breath until you made it safely with your car to the other side. Living on a back country road, and back when we had “real” winters, you might be “snowed in” for two months or more. Count on it. Spring was probably the worst, with all the red clay mud during the rainy season.
Now there is all the fuss over the Highway Dept. “privatizing” and no money to build new roads or fix existing ones, as if this were something new. I simply suggest you think about how it was “back in the day” and look at how it is now…
SMOKE AND MIRRORS: HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT PRIVATIZING?
(Thanks to Hurherald for these storys)
West Virginia’s highway department is moving toward privatization.
Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox says he will be seeking legislative approval in 2008 with regard to the authorization of public-private partnerships to fund future highway maintenance and construction projects in the Mountain State.
Earlier this year, highway official minimized talk about such a move, after hundreds of pieces of equipment in the 55 counties were placed on the auction block.
Taxpayers are generally told that private enterprise can do the job more efficiently and save money.
Just look at the nation’s private health system for some insight, with nearly 50 million Americans without insurance, millions more under-insured, and unfordable costs skyrocketing from year to year.
The highway department adamantly denied the shift earlier this year after they began to sell off county equipment, focusing on “core maintenance.”
Mattox says the department is unable to finance the overwhelming needs of the state’s highway system, indicating privatization is the solution.
Mattox said under current funding streams, it will take 30 years to complete Corridor H, 160 years to build the King Coal Highway and 126 years to build the Tolsia Highway.
The state’s paved highways are in the worst shape in many years, and it is likely the department will ask for the approval of a new road bond.
Avoiding simple solutions like the state operating their own asphalt plants, the answer is to spend more money with private contractors who obviously have a considerable profit margin.
Mattox said more toll roads are an option that is on the table.
Central West Virginia’s long-planned Little Kanawha Parkway is barely on any state list, after it was proposed in the 1970s to open-up poor, rural counties to greater opportunity.
The LK Parkway has yet to receive minimal funding to essentially hire a lobbyist to promote the cause.
HIGHWAY WORKERS PROTESTING EQUIPMENT AUCTION
Department of Highway workers will be protesting the sale of equipment today in Buckhannon, equipment they contend is needed in counties to provide service.
Members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 170 say they will hold the rally.
The Highway Department says they’re just trying to unload some equipment the agency can no longer use.
Deputy State Highway Engineer John Walker says “We have some dump trucks. We have some end loaders. We have some old tractors, a few pickup trucks, a variety of things you would see out on highway work.”
Protesters claim much newer equipment is on the auction block, not discussed in press releases. Pickets are expected to appear this morning as the auction begins.
The number of pieces of equipment that was scheduled to be auctioned has been trimmed.
“Most of it’s old, reached its useful life, has a lot of repair work needed,” Walker says. “You try to turn over stuff and get new things when you can and some of it is trying to be more efficient and just do more with less too.”
A number of highway workers contend the sale and the “Core Maintenance Program” is a smokescreen for privatizing the highway department.
The Buckhannon auction will feature 263 pieces of equipment and another 219 miscellaneous items.
The auction marks the second big auction this year for the agency and is expected to raise $1.2 million, said Bob Andrew, the agency’s equipment director.
An auction in May generated about $1.5 million when 306 pieces of equipment and 232 miscellaneous items were sold.