Authority is hereby granted to the West Virginia Division of Highways to establish a program to acquire and maintain roads and bridges which meet the following three criteria: (1) Are in existence as of January 1, 1998; (2) are roads or bridges which the public has a right to use; and (3) are roads or bridges not maintained by any governmental agency. These roads and bridges are herein designated as orphan roads and bridges.
The Legislature hereby finds and declares it to be important for the economic and social development of the state that a program for the identification, acquisition and maintenance of orphan roads and bridges be undertaken by the state. In particular, the Legislature finds and declares that basic maintenance should be performed on orphan roads and bridges to promote the well-being of the public.
The West Virginia Division of Highways shall develop an orphan roads and bridges identification, acquisition and maintenance program which shall include all counties. At the discretion of the commissioner of the Division of Highways, existing and temporary employees of the division shall be assigned to locate and designate each orphan road and bridge in each county. These employees shall give to the commissioner of highways, in a form proscribed by him or her, a detailed report on acquisition, status of rights-of-way, and needed maintenance for orphan roads and bridges in each county or highway district. Specific contents of each report shall be designated by the commissioner.
In order for a road or bridge to qualify for inclusion into the state system, all necessary rights-of-way shall be either dedicated or donated to the Division of Highways.
In the event that all property owners do not agree to dedicate or donate the necessary rights-of-way, then any individual, group, business or governmental entity can donate to the state road fund a sum sufficient to cover the expense of acquiring the right-of-way that has not been dedicated or donated. The commissioner may also use any moneys donated to the state road fund specifically for the purposes of acquiring a right-of-way which has not been dedicated or donated.
After reviewing the reports made to section two of this article, the commissioner will determine whether a specific road or bridge should be added to the state maintenance system. The commissioner shall consider the following criteria in reaching his or her determination: (1) The availability of resources for maintaining the road or bridge; (2) the number of persons served by the road or bridge; (3) the current and anticipated use of the road or bridge; (4) the condition of the road or bridge; (5) the availability and suitability of alternate routes; (6) the suitability for maintenance equipment to access and maintain the road or bridge; (7) the existing design and layout of the road or bridge; and (8) the number of roads and bridges accepted into the maintenance system.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources shall make available to the division of highways a list of able-bodied welfare recipients who have given permission for their names to be listed as recipients available for work with the Division of Highways, and who are available and able to work a minimum of twenty hours a week at a manual labor job maintaining orphan roads and bridges under the supervision of the district or county highway offices. The commissioner of the Division of Highways may, by contract, employ persons participating in the citizens' conservation corps to maintain orphan roads and bridges. The employment of welfare recipients or workers provided through the citizens' conservation corps to maintain orphan roads and bridges may not be used to displace any Division of Highways employee in the classified civil service, or to reduce classified civil service positions within the division.
The Division of Highways is required to furnish trucks or other proper motor vehicles and gravel or other required materials to be used by the workforce created by this section in the maintenance of the orphan roads and bridges in each district and county.
Roads and bridges accepted into the maintenance system under the provisions of this article are admitted only for the purposes of maintenance. No upgrading of said roads and bridges is to be undertaken unless otherwise determined by the commissioner of highways.
The orphan roads and bridges acquisition and maintenance program established pursuant to this article will terminate on December 31, 2001.
On or before January 30, 1999, and annually thereafter, the commissioner of the Division of Highways shall submit a report to the Legislature which recounts the activities of the program and the roads and bridges which have been accepted into the state maintenance system. The report shall include a breakdown by county of those roads and bridges being maintained, the estimated costs associated with maintenance and any other information the commissioner deems necessary. Before January 30, 2002, the commissioner shall also submit proposed legislation formulating a policy for the designation and acceptance into the state system of orphan roads and bridges in the future.