The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways has begun its series of public hearings on how to close the state”s funding gap for state roads and highways, after releasing a report earlier this year that said West Virginia needs an additional $600 million to $1.23 billion in new funding for its highway system. With that in mind, it’s worth looking at how much West Virginia spends on roads and highways now, and how we compare to other states.
According to the 2010 Economic Census of State and Local Government Finance, West Virginia spent $1.23 billion on highways, in combined state and local expenditures. Below, I compiled a table with West Virginia’s highways spending ranking among the 50 states and D.C., as measured by several different metrics. Those metrics include as a percent of total spending, as a percent of GDP, per capita, per total vehicle miles traveled, and per mile of public road.
When it comes to highway spending, West Virginia is already above average in several measures. We rank in the top 10 when it comes to highway expenditures as a percent of total expenditures, and as a percent of GDP. We also spend more on highways per capita and per miles driven than the national average, spending $667 per person, and $0.061 per mile driven.
However, the state ranks below average when it comes to spending per mile of public roads. According to the data, West Virginia spends about $32,000 per mile of public roads in the state, compared to the national average of $38,325. This figure suggests that rather than spending more than average on our roads, West Virginia has a high number of roads to maintain for a state of its size.
So what happens to our rankings if we add in an additional $600 million, like suggested by the Commission? The table below shows those results.
By adding in an additional $600 million, West Virginia would jump into the top 5 for highways spending as percent of total spending, as a percent of GDP, per capita, and per vehicles miles traveled. But when it comes to highway spending per mile of public road, West Virginia would still only rank 16th, although above average.
All of this suggests that West Virginia faces some unique challenges when it comes to funding our roads system. For a small, relatively poor state, we have a relatively large amount of roads to take care of. The state already dedicates more of its resources to our highways, asking more of its citizens than most states, but we also have more to take care of than most states. And the governor’s commission has suggested that doubling our efforts is needed just to keep it all together. It will take creative and forward thinking solutions from our political leaders to solve this puzzle.
Download an excel file with the figures for all 50 states here – highway expenditures