W.Va. 2 has long been the vein that has aided in the economic development of West Virginia's Ohio Valley. People rely on this road to get to work and to drop children off at school. Businesses depend on this highway to gain access to customers and fulfill their commercial needs. More than 30 manufacturers and a number of natural gas companies use W.Va. 2 to transport goods and send their product to market. It is clear that the route is the driving force of our region's economy.
However, there are many problems that plague the two-lane road, such as traffic congestion and safety concerns. Many people have sought solutions to reduce these issues and create more opportunities for economic development. One popular solutions has been to expand W.Va. 2 from a two-lane road to a four-lane highway from Parkersburg to Chester. Others have proposed just adding bridges over the Ohio River in order to divert traffic from the route onto Ohio 7. Aside from the concern of sending people, business and industry outside the state, the approach of only building new bridges is neither timely nor fiscally responsible.
The cost of four of the bridges spanning the Ohio River in 2016 dollars: Blennerhasset Island Bridge, $147 million; Hi-Carpenter Memorial Bridge, $135.2 million; Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge, $115.6 million; and Jennings Randolph Bridge: $185.5 million.
Using these amounts, it can be determined that the average cost to build a new bridge connecting W.Va 2 to Ohio 7 over the Ohio River, should the construction start this year, would be $145.8 million. The cost of building just 10 new bridges needed to alleviate traffic would be nearly $1.5 billion.
This price tag is just for the construction of a bridge and does not take into account the costs of the structures to connect these bridges to the road system. The cost of building the interchanges for the bridges would add hundreds of millions.
In comparison, let us now examine the cost of expanding the 230 miles of Route 2 to a four-lane highway from Parkersburg to Chester. About 35.8 of these miles already are expanded to four-lanes. It costs an estimated $4 million per mile to expand a highway by two lanes. Therefore, it would cost about $776.8 million to expand the remaining two-lane sections of Route 2 to a proper four-lane highway.
This is a considerable savings compared to the price tag of multiple new bridges.
In a time when our state is facing a financial crunch, it is irresponsible to not take the most fiscally sound approach to meet our infrastructure needs. Further, if we are going to put money into construction, we should invest 100 percent into West Virginian roads and promoting our state's development. We cannot afford to build bridges that send people and business out of state while ignoring our own infrastructure.
We must approach our state's infrastructural needs in a way that stresses fiscal responsibility, while promoting the great state of West Virginia. We must invest in our own state's future. We must ensure a sound road system to support the development of industry.
The most economical solution to the Ohio Valley's road issues is expanding W.Va. 2 to a four-lane highway. This is the only reasonable way to alleviate the volume of traffic on the current two-lane road and to create opportunity for business and industry to thrive in our own state. Expanding Route 2 must be a priority.
Executive Director of the Route 2 and I-68 Authority