On asphalt, Ohio politics and Riverfront Park

May 21, 2018 GMT

So, where’s the asphalt?

A year ago, when he was in Huntington and elsewhere getting out the vote for Gov.

Jim Justice’s big road bond proposal, West Virginia Secretary of Transportation Tom Smith said the program to rebuild the state’s main roads would also benefit the secondary road system.

According to Smith, money raised by the road bond would free up money that could be used for overdue work on secondary roads.

It’s only May, so it’s too early to expect to see any large-scale paving work on some of our busier back roads or on some less-busy roads that sorely need attention. There are potholes in dire need of patching. Some patching has been done, but it was a bad winter for roads, and potholes are getting bigger as spring transitions into summer.

If you want to see a nasty binary pothole, check out the end of Cedar Crest Drive at W.Va. 10. There, if you are coming from U.S. 60, you can navigate through a figure 8-shaped hole that as of Wednesday was 73 inches wide, 37 inches across and at least 5 inches deep. It’s a hit one, get one free deal.

Undoubtedly there are dozens of roads in the area that need patching, and undoubtedly road crews are getting to them based on an established priority listing. However, people are paying more for their car licenses, and we have been promised to see results on the secondary system, so state highway officials need to begin delivering on Smith’s promise soon.

On the other hand, there is one drawback to having a smooth, freshly paved secondary road. When the pavement is pothole-free, people tend to drive faster. Some drivers think they’re on Route 2, at least until they meet someone coming the other way in a blind curve.

Southeast Ohio could have a powerful member of the Ohio General Assembly soon.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio state Rep. Ryan Smith is the frontrunner to become Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives when the General Assembly resumes its session on May 24.

Smith is a Republican from Bidwell, a small community about 11 miles north of Gallipolis. According to the Dispatch, Smith received 42 of 65 votes in a recent Republican caucus. He would need 51 to win in a vote of the full 100-member House.

If he is elected speaker, Smith would be the first from southern Ohio since the late Vern Riffe of Portsmouth. Riffe was the longest-serving speaker in Ohio history. He served for 20 years ending in January 1995. He died two years later.

Politicians from southern Ohio have done well in elections for governor — think of James A. Rhodes and Ted Strickland — but they haven’t done well in other statewide elections. Thus their rising in the General Assembly gives the region some clout in Columbus.

Disclosure: Smith and I are related on my father’s side. He’s not closely related or distantly related. He’s some-where in the middle.

Ritter Park may be the crown jewel of the Huntington park system, but Harris Riverfront Park is worth bragging about, too.

I’ve checked out riverfront parks from Maysville, Kentucky, to Marietta, Ohio, and I’ve checked the riverfronts of other communities that don’t have parks that are as fully developed. Huntington’s Riverfront Park has the best combination of size and amenities.

This is not to say that Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Ashland don’t have nice riverfront parks. They do, and in some ways they have their advantages, but overall I prefer Huntington’s.

Wednesday evening, there were middle-aged people fishing, young people just hanging out and older people sitting on benches and chatting. When the river goes back down to normal pool and the mud can be cleaned off the lower areas, the park will again be a gathering place for people of all ages.

Jim Ross is a Huntington resident and former reporter and editor for The Herald-Dispatch.