The House of Delegates is scheduled to take a final vote Wednesday on a bill that would lift the tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike in 2020 and eventually transfer control of the 88 mile long highway to the Division of Highways.
Mercer County Delegate Marty Gearheart, one of the sponsors of the bill, says it’s about fairness.
“We’re the only place in West Virginia that has built its own highway. We built this highway starting in 1949. We started tolls in 1954. Tolls were instituted for construction of the highway,” Delegate Gearheart said.
“We built the road. We rebuilt the road. Now we have bonds in place for reasons that, somewhat, are undetermined.”
The construction bonds for the Turnpike are on track to be paid off in 2019. This bill would eliminate the tolls about a year after the bond debt is eliminated. The toll money collected during that time would fund future road maintenance.
Gearheart says the bill would fully fund the care of the Turnpike through 2035, when all of the assets of the Parkways Authority would be under the DOH, and then half of the annual amount every year after that.
The proposal also addresses the 400 current employees of the Parkways Authority. He says they’ll all be offered other jobs in state government.
Delegate Gearheart says drivers who frequently use the Turnpike are taxed when they buy gas, like other drivers in West Virginia, and again when they go through the toll plazas.
“The State of West Virginia made us a promise. We built our road. We have our road. We built it. We’ve rebuilt it. Now we’re being taxed twice to drive on it and it’s time for that to go away,” he said.
The House Finance Committee originated the bill that advanced to the House floor on Friday.
Delegate Gearheart says the proposal did not come out of nowhere. “We’ve been working on this for over ten years,” he said on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline.
If HB 3163 gets final approval from the House on Wednesday, it would go to the Senate with just more than a week left in the 2013 Regular Legislative Session.