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.