A bill to remove tolls from the 88-mile stretch of interstate highway between Bluefield and Charleston in 2020 is apparently stalled in the state Senate.
MetroNews file photo
A bill to remove tolls from the 88-mile stretch of interstate highway between Bluefield and Charleston in 2020 is apparently stalled in the state Senate.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Jeff Kessler says it’s “not likely” the bill to remove tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike in 2020 will get Senate approval before the end of the 2013 Regular Legislative Session this Saturday.

“I certainly appreciate, recognize and understand the frustration of those, particularly in Southern West Virginia, who continue to pay those tolls,” Kessler said recently.

However, “I would prefer to look at it, probably, more comprehensively rather than just on a piecemeal basis.”

“The folks down there are unhappy about paying the tolls, but that was the deal they signed up for when they built the road. When it gets paid off, I agree that that interstate should be treated like every other interstate in the state.” — Senate president Jeff Kessler

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin does not support the toll proposal. Later this year, his Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways is expected to release a full report on all of West Virginia’s road needs with recommendations on how to address them.

With that report pending, Kessler claimed it makes sense to wait before addressing the tolls.

“I can’t disagree that the folks down there are unhappy about paying the tolls, but that was the deal they signed up for when they built the road,” he said. “When it gets paid off, I agree that that interstate should be treated like every other interstate in the state.”

As of now, the bonds for the West Virginia Turnpike are scheduled to be paid off by 2019.

The proposed bill in the Senate would keep those tolls intact for an additional year, through 2020, to build funds for future maintenance once the 88-mile long highway between Bluefield and Charleston is transferred to the DOH.

Last week, the House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved the bill, HB 3163, with a 97-1 vote. Kanawha County Delegate Danny Wells voted against the bill because of the costs, he said, it would shift to the DOH.

One estimate indicates the already strapped DOH would have to come up with another $60 million each year to pay for maintenance on the Turnpike if the tolls are removed and the transfer completed.

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Comments

  • Jim

    Although I am not a "card carrying member" of Jeff Kessler's admiration society, especially after the way he handled the bill to eliminate municipalities from passing gun control measures, thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the tolls will stay. To make statements like, "we have paid off the Turnpike bonds ten times over", is outrageous and wrong on so many levels. Just as "the Turnpke changed their name and built Tamarac to keep their jobs" is equally outrageous. Your fine liberal governor Gaston Caperton was responsible for those actions. Further, politicians diverted money from the Turnpike to build/buy a large office complex in Charleston and for highway projects in the Wheeling area. As was recently said, "you are entilted to your own opinion, but you are not entilted to your own facts!"
    Senator Kessler's statement mirrors exactly what I've been saying--paraphrased--you wanted it, whined for years to get it, agreed to pay tolls to get it, now you want to renig on your committement--sad, sad!

    • Coalwiz

      Jim

      Ever heard of "bait and switch"?

  • jake123

    jeff kessler needs to go .......his words on the gun bill and his lack of knowledge about turnpike bonds paint him as stupid as he seemingly believes west virginians are

    • cutty77

      Everyone of these Clowns need to go,not just Kessler. Their should be Term Limits on every office in this Country.Then this would slow down this Good Ole Boy Network.

  • WVIRGINIAN FOR LIFE

    The only bills that will pass this session will be related to law enforcement and additional revenue generation. I.e. ridiculous seat belt bill, ridiculous and incomplete drugged driver bill and the approved casino which the state obviously doesn't need. Otherwise, this session has been a waste of time taxpayer funds. The House, Senate and the Governor should all be ashamed and resign so they can spend more time lying, developing personal gold ole agendas and plain ole hillbilly politics. We are now replacing the coal industry with casinos and gambling which is dependent on a multiple variables and a produces a raw material end product that is unstable and can disappear quickly. God help us all!

    • j

      I agree whole-heartedly with most of your sentiment. However, while the drugged driver bill may be incomplete.....it is definately not rediculous......... Unless you are one of the drugged drivers out there. Auto accidents are responsible for killing and injuring many on our roadways. It is about time that there was an attempt to clean up the roads of those that are drugged up.

      Additionally, there is no reason that there should not be a law to test those on public assistance as well.

    • Joel

      Spot on summation right there, WVianfor life. My thoughts too. I hope some legislators read it.

  • Coalwiz

    Anything that the House of Delegates votes 97-1 for should at least get to the floor of the Senate. The Govenor (and now the Senate President) already know what will be presented by the Blue Panel BS Commission. They will either want to carry on the tolls as a new "Rainy Day" Fund, or they will force the DOH to commit to doing mega spending on the highway before they will accept it. And this will be paid for with ten more years of bonds.

  • j

    The article does not really state what type of reason that Sen Kessler is taking into account in his saying that the bill will not pass.

    Is it because there is not enough support in the senate to pass it?

    Is he afraid to go against the governor by calling it out for a floor vote?

    Or are there shady dealings going on behind the scenes in some committee?

    Or, like the gun bill................did someone threaten him to get it for a floor vote?

    Am guessing this post will probably get deleted because I question what a person is thinking, or that I pose a question about backroom political deals...........But that is not the intent......I am acting as the media often does and posing possible idea's as to the intent as Sen. Kessler gives no actual answer as to why.

    If Sen. Kessler did indeed give an actual answer, then the writer of the article neglected to print it.

  • derek

    Cutty77 you pay 12 dollars everytime you want to go to the capital. Its total crap I say increase everybody in WV taxes. To pay for it. WE have paid for it ten times over. Put a toll booth when you come into WV from all entry points. Sick of these tolls.

    • Jon

      Derek, these senators just want to keep their sources of funding to play the same old games with the people of WV. I say we take names and vote them out of office, the Governor too. The House did not vote 97-1 on this issue because they are all "stupid".

  • Cooter

    Those of us in the south did indeed sign up for that, that there would be tolls until the road was paid off. That time was long ago, but in order to fund Tamarack and other things, the bonds were re-financed. If not for tinkering, those bonds would already be paid. But the Turnpike Commission had to find a way to stay alive and relevant, they changed their name, broadened their scope, all in an attempt to keep their own jobs.

    • cutty77

      Please quit blaming all this on Tamarack. Its very nice place for people to stop along the way,even if you and I don't go there all the time.Trucks tear up the Turnpike,and cause alot wrecks on it too.Did you not read the last part of this piece about the 60 mill. West Virgina is a small State,and it takes alot of money to keep it going,from a small amount of people.Yes there should be some deals for people that drive it everyday.But nowadays everybody wants something for nothing.

      • Jon

        So cutty,with your logic, everyone in your neighborhood should borrow money against your house to bring it up to current code and curb appeal then hand you a new 30 year mortgage on the way out and tell you, "you signed up to buy the house".

        • cutty77

          Jon if they used my House like we use The Turnpike,Yes i would be looking for some money.You signed up to drive on The Turnpike,you can always move.

        • cutty77

          Don't remove the Toll just because if affects you,thats kind of one sided isn't it.How much does a easy pass Cost?

  • cutty77

    Very Smart Move.Last weeks Vote Show How Stupid The House of Delegates really are. 97 to 1 vote. The Blind Leading The Blind. Now who would of thought Old Danny Wells was The Smartest one. At least he's paying attention.