POINT PLEASANT — The completion of U.S. 35, minus tolls, was on the minds and lips of many politicians this week at a meet the candidates event sponsored by the Mason County Ministerial Association, Mason County Right to Life and Mason County Anti-Drug Coalition.
Sen. Mike Hall (R) was one of the candidates who spoke at the event. Hall co-sponsored Senate Bill 190, also known as the public-private partnership bill, which became law last July 1. The language in the law allows for private financing of state roads and approval of plans by the state highway commissioner, as opposed to the Legislature. SB 190 also does away with change orders for projects that some have argued may not make many contractors happy.
The law also allows out-of-state contractors to bid on the job and the completion of U.S. 35 is a job that has never been done on this type of scale with the new law. Completion of the 14.6 miles of two lanes into four is estimated to cost $235 million, and there have been questions about whether or not contractors within the state are large enough to bid on the project, according to Hall.
Hall, who is the minority leader in the Senate, said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has had a proposal to complete U.S. 35 on his desk for more than a year that is financed. Hall said Tomblin was “sitting on it,” even though the funding is there.
Hall said when the recent fatality on U.S. 35 happened and a man from Southside was killed, he texted the governor’s chief of staff to say, “We lost another person. When are you going to announce construction of the road?”
As of yet, there has been no answer on that, according to Hall.
Hall, like many other politicians, encouraged those at the meeting concerned about the completion of U.S. 35 to write to Tomblin and express their opinion.