West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Tuesday issued an executive order creating the Blue Ribbon Highway Commission to study long-term transportation needs.

The panel will develop a long-term strategic plan, including funding options for the maintenance, construction and expansion of the state’s roadway system.

“This new commission comprised of unions, associations, legislators, state and local leaders in transportation and travel industries will develop a long-term plan to help us meet our current and future needs for the safety of the traveling public and the economic development of the state,” Tomblin said.

The state is one of four in the country that maintains both state and county roads, which represent 92% of the roadways or about 36,000 miles, according to the executive order. Delaware, North Carolina and Virginia are the other three.

West Virginia’s bridges are about 50 years old on average and more than one-third are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, Tomblin said.

A variety of revenues flow into the State Road Fund from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, taxes on state motor fuels, vehicle registrations and other sources. However, those funds have remained flat at $1.2 billion since 1994.

With the state’s highway needs projected to grow at a rate far in excess of the state’s projected population growth over the next 20 years, Tomblin said the commission he has empaneled must “research and define an equitable and adequate system to properly finance improvements to the state highway system.”

The commission is expected to issue a report by Feb. 1, which will include bills for consideration during the 2013 legislative session.

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