1-7-13 Disaster spending straps road fund

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia revenue officials had to give the State Road Fund a $6.5 million infusion last month after three costly and unforeseen disasters tapped much of its cash.

The state Department of Transportation has spent a lot of money in a short amount of time to make roads passable after the June 29 derecho, Superstorm Sandy, and last month’s powerful natural gas line explosion near Sissonville that badly damaged a portion of Interstate 77.

The final cost of the emergency overnight paving job that reopened I-77 has yet to be tallied, the price tag from the other events totaled $30 million.

Department spokesman Brent Walker said the unbudgeted emergency spending, combined with the stagnant flow of revenue for the already cash-strapped road fund, put transportation officials in a bit of a pinch in December to pay for all of the cleanup and road repairs.

But fortunately, there was money in the General Revenue Fund set aside for the transportation department.

The state makes a regular transfer of sales tax revenue to the State Road Fund in June each year. That amount, which has ranged from $12 million to $15 million annually, is designed to cover a small portion of the state’s annual contract costs for highway construction.

Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow said officials were able to make an early transfer to help offset the department’s emergency costs.

The December transfer should be enough to cover road fund costs until the state receives some reimbursements from the federal government, Walker said.

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