POINT PLEASANT — This week’s news about an attempt by the West Virginia Division of Highway to bid out the first contract this fall in terms of completing U.S. 35 was discussed at Thursday’s regular meeting of the Mason County Commission.
The meeting began with Commissioner Rick Handley commending all the first responders who were on the scene of this week’s accident on U.S. 35 involving two semi-trucks and a school bus. Also at the meeting was Del. Jim Butler (R-14th) who spoke to the commission about U.S. 35. as well as the accident. Butler echoed Handley’s sentiments about commending first responders and health care providers and said he was thankful no children or adults were seriously injured in the accident.
Butler added he was pleased to hear the announcement by officials of the department of highways that they would be taking bids in preparation for beginning the construction to complete the remaining 14 miles of U.S. 35.
“As a local resident, and a representative of Mason and Putnam Counties, I am thankful that Governor Tomblin appears to be moving ahead with this project to improve the safety for everyone living along Route 35 as well as those who travel upon it,” Butler said. “Delegate (Scott) Cadle and I have been working in the House Transportation Committee to help improve roads in West Virginia, and though unable to secure a meeting in the eighteen months that we have served as representatives of Mason and Putnam Counties, we have written letters to the governor to encourage him to approve a plan for Route 35 that utilizes the private public partnership legislation that was passed in 2013, shortly after we joined the House of Delegates.”
Butler went on to say, “I will also point out that as a result of a public hearing called by Delegate Cadle, and participation of Mason County residents we were able to amend a bill to ensure that Route 35 cannot be tolled.”
Butler closed out his comments saying he was especially grateful to all the the local residents, the county commissioners, local municipal officials and “everyone else who has helped to encourage the completion of this much needed road.”
Butler later presented the commission with a study he’d requested from WVDOH concerning the number of accidents, injuries and fatalities on the 14 mile stretch of two lane road. Butler said the report was from January 2009 to March 2014 and stated there were 200 crashes, 45 injuries and one death in this time frame - he noted this was just prior to the two fatalities which have occurred this year on U.S. 35 and of course also did not include this week’s accident.
Handley commended Butler for the work he did prior to being elected on U.S. 35 and for his continued work on it. Commissioner Tracy Doolittle thanked Butler for coming to the meeting and for sharing in the latest news about U.S. 35.
In other news on U.S. 35, Handley presented a letter he’d received from U.S. Congressman Nick J. Rahall (D) which was a copy of the response Rahall received from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx regarding the TIGER grant application for federal funding to further develop U.S. 35. Handley said he believed the requested amount of the grant was $20 million. Foxx’s letter basically acknowledged Rahall’s letter of support for the grant had been received.
In addition to Handley, Doolittle and Butler, also at the meeting, County Administrator John Gerlach.
More on Thursday’s meeting in an upcoming edition.