CHARLESTON — During a meeting of the West Virginia Parkways Authority on Dec. 8, the governing Board passed a resolution in support of the continuation of tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike once existing bonds are paid in full. Final payment on these bonds is scheduled for May 15, 2019.
This is a Continuing Resolution in support of tolls. The first Resolution was passed by the Board on January 7, 2016 to urge the West Virginia Legislature to amend the existing legislation requiring the cessation of tolls after the bonds are paid. The Board concludes that the State of West Virginia has had significant difficulty balancing its budget over the last few years due in part to declining revenue. Tolls on the Turnpike continue to pay for the toll road’s operation, maintenance and capital improvements and continue to provide 360 full and part-time jobs with benefits.
The elimination of tolls would result in the loss of approximately $90 million of yearly revenue that could have been collected from the use of the West Virginia Turnpike. Since 76 percent of all toll revenues come from out-of-state passenger and commercial vehicles, there would be a loss of $68 million annually to pay for the cost to operate the 88-mile Turnpike which has 426 lane miles and 116 bridges. Without the toll revenue, the entire cost of operating the West Virginia Turnpike would shift directly or indirectly to the taxpayers of West Virginia. Over a 30 year period, West Virginia would lose approximately $2.7 billion in revenue from tolls, $2 billion of which comes from out-of-state users of the West Virginia Turnpike.
Parkways General Manager Greg Barr said that, “if tolls are eliminated, the WV Division of Highways will be required to maintain the WV Turnpike, free of tolls, at an annual estimated cost of $60 million per year with no additional federal dollars to replace the loss of toll revenue.” He also stated that, “tolls represent a vital funding source for transportation in West Virginia and the removal of tolls is the exception rather than the rule on a national basis.”
Board Member Bill Seaver expressed his concern about the morale and uncertainty regarding future job security for Parkways Authority employees and their families. During the meeting, he said, “(Turnpike) employees will have yet another Christmas to worry about their jobs.” Mr. Seaver is a strong advocate of utilizing tolls to improve the economy and transportation infrastructure in Southern West Virginia.
The Parkways Authority, through its customer service center, continues to offer generous discounts to E-ZPass customers to lessen the costs to both personal and commercial users of the Turnpike. In addition, a West Virginia tax deduction is permitted for tolls paid with WV E-ZPass.
In May 2015, the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways issued their report that concluded West Virginia needs an additional $750 million a year simply to preserve and improve its roads and bridges. Another $380 million a year is needed to provide for expansion of the existing highway system. The annual shortfall for West Virginia transportation needs is expected to exceed $1.13 billion. Tolling helps fund transportation infrastructure as the current gas tax revenues that support the State Road Fund are stagnant and in danger of dwindling even further as people drive more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The Parkways Authority receives no funding whatsoever from the State of West Virginia or from the Federal Government for any maintenance, operation or capital repairs needed for the Turnpike.
A copy of the full Continuing Resolution can be found on the Turnpike’s website at www.wvturnpike.com (About:Facts and Information).
Release provided by the West Virginia Division of Highways.