High Gas Prices Cause DOH to Cutback on Paving in WV

Wed August 10, 2005 - Northeast Edition

CHARLESTON, WV (AP) High gas prices, and the resulting increase in the cost of asphalt oil, is forcing the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) to cut back on paving.

“Unless revenue goes up or fuel prices go down, the amount of roadways we can pave is going to decrease,” said Dennis King, maintenance engineer for the state Division of Highways.

It already has, said Carol Melling, a spokeswoman of the DOH.

A program that resurfaces back roads in Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Mason and Putnam counties completed 20 projects in 2003, but only 15 in 2004. Each project covers an average of 2 mi., Melling said.

“That means a decrease of 10 miles in the amount of roadways resurfaced, which is pretty significant,” said Ron Stanevich, highway engineer of the DOH.

Contractors’ bids have been coming in 3 to 5 percent higher than they did the year before, King said.

The cost for a ton of asphalt in West Virginia is slightly higher than the national average and is climbing at a steady rate.

The national average for asphalt is up 13 percent, from $165 a ton a year ago to $189 a ton, according to Engineering News Record, an industry publication.

In West Virginia, the May 2004 price for a ton of asphalt was $173. Today, that same material costs approximately $197.50 a ton, a 14 percent increase and consistent with national trends.

“We never thought fuel prices would be this high, or that we’d be flirting with $60 a barrel,” said Pat Parsons, executive director of the Asphalt and Pavement Association of West Virginia.

Parsons, whose organization represents approximately 50 paving contractors, said costs are increasing for other materials and services as well. Construction, hauling aggregates and barge rates all have seen a spike in costs.

“How do you plan a year in advance for something you can’t predict?” Parsons said. “It makes it very difficult to assess risk.”