The bonds and tolling issue of the highway was supposed to be discussed during the meeting. In addition, Thursday marked the deadline for the construction bid contract. As of press time, the Department of Highways (DOH) said that a decision would be made today on whether to extend the contract or not.
According to Brent Walker of the Department of Transportation, the meeting was canceled because there was nothing new to report on. Therefore, it is assumed that no revised financial funding plan for the project was devised.
During the previous Parkways meeting, which took place March 10, the DOH was given the two-week extension to find funding for construction to complete the remaining 14.6 miles of U.S. 35, which spans through Mason and Putnam Counties. Project construction company, Kokosing, also agreed to the extension. The granted extension brought about more controversy regarding U.S. 35 as the Senate had just recently voted 21-12 against a bill that would have allowed tolls to be imposed on the highway. The rejected bill would have granted $8 million to the U.S. 35 project and also called for the tolling of the highway to back up the state issued bonds for the road.
Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley, who had planned to attend Thursday’s canceled Parkways meeting, said that he had many questions regarding the issue.
“I would like to know what the deal with the extension is,” Handley said. “How fair is it for them to continue? If they don’t have the money by now how long will they continue to wait and drag this on?”
Calls to the Parkways Authority were not returned as of press time.
Additional information regarding the U.S. 35 project is available on the Parkways Web site, http://www.transportation.wv.gov/turnpike/Pages/Route35.aspx.