CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Earl Ray Tomblin could receive the final report from his Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways, focused on ways to pay for West Virginia’s future road needs, as early as this week.

The recommendations would keep tolls in place on the West Virginia Turnpike, the 88-mile long highway in southern West Virginia, to generate as much as $1 billion to pay for future construction and maintenance work on the Turnpike along with roads across the Mountain State.

MetroNews file photo

It will soon be up to Governor Tomblin to determine what to do with a recommendation to continue tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike to pay for future road needs.

Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association and a Commission member, defended the proposal after traveling the state for public meetings in nine cities.

“I think that’s our only option and it looks to be like one that most people feel like is okay,” she said.  “Even in that area (the Turnpike counties), I think most people feel like that it’s okay because we’ve got to continue to have good, safe, efficient highways in West Virginia.”

The current bonds for the Turnpike, which runs through Mercer, Raleigh, Fayette and Kanawha counties, are scheduled to be paid off in 2019.

Vineyard said she supports the continuation of the tolls beyond that date, and toll increases in the future, because the Parkways Authority, which runs the Turnpike, estimated more than 75 percent of the traffic on the Turnpike comes from outside of the state.

She said that means state residents would not be solely responsible for keeping West Virginia’s roads in driving shape.

“We’re making it as painless as we can make it on the West Virginia citizens,” said Vineyard.  The plan calls for 25 percent of the toll money generated to stay in the Turnpike counties and state residents would also be eligible for toll discounts.

To be implemented, the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways will have to have the approval of Governor Tomblin and the Legislature.  The 2014 Regular Legislative Session begins in January.

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  • Cynara

    It's past time to get rid of the tolls! They had said they would do that, and should stand by their statement.

  • DaveCPA

    Additional tolls on the Turnpike to pay for all highway improvements in WV and complete other roads in WV is simply unfair. Did the Blue Ribbon Commission consider the logistics of additional toll booths on other roads throughout the State? I-64, I-79, I-73(proposed), other new roads? Where are those findings? Virginia built a toll link years ago into North Carolina that allows quick access to the Outer Banks of NC. I do not know who gets the toll but it helps to pay for the road. Other successful states do it too! We will see more of that in years to come because the Fed is broke. If you are using it, pay for it. I understand about the fuel and road taxes we pay, but that is not enough to maintain the roads and bridges. But spread the toll burden across the State instead of wearing out one of the poorest sections' residents. I live on the state line with Virginia. Increasingly, I go into VA for more and more of everything. Bluefield, WV (±10K pop.) does not even have a grocery store (0% WV food tax) except for a small local IGA type. Ironically, Bluefield, VA has 3-large chain stores and the VA tax on food but I have little choice unless I want to travel many miles inside WV. I can only surmise that the poor WV business climate over the years helped to create this. The proposition that the Turnpike tolls should be increased and spare that rest of the State is an example of what I mean. Geesh!!!

  • Ray

    You can bet your sweet fanny, if I-79 between Charleston and Morgantown had been built as a toll road, the tolls would have been dropped years ago.
    Wouldn't want to inconvenience the elite driving to the football games.

  • Atthelimit

    Well, I reckon the wise and wonderful people who run WV are gonna do what they wanna do. They can spin it however they want to spin it. There's no real point in discussing it (which is why I suspect that pretty much nobody, including myself, went to the "meeting" that was held in this area, earlier this year) Good luck to 'em.

    Btw, at the Bluefield, VA Sam's Club, regular gas was going for about $3.12/gal this morning...

    • pc

      There's the real issue that WV taxpayers and citizens should demand investigation on: price of gas in this state, which would turn up rampant price gouging by Vineyard's organization and members. Gas in Bluefield VA is $3.12- -mile away in WV it is $3.48, 30 miles away in McDowell County it is $3.50+. In Huntington, gas in $3.50+ range; mile across river in South Point, OH, it is in $3.20 range. Same across WV, and such drastic higher prices in WV CANNOT be explained by differences in State gas taxes. Folks, Vineyard's group and their lobbyists have had legislative leaders, governors like Tomblin, etc., on the "take" for years in Charleston. Result, WV citizens pay exorbitant prices for gas and citizens in Southern WV don't need the additional burden of extended Turnpike tolls!!!

      • realitycheck

        well, a good bit of it most certainly can be explained by the gas tax difference. last time i checked, WV's gas tax was twice that of VA's.

  • Nick

    Jan is wrong. People in the Mercer, Fayette, and Raleigh areas despise the tolls. They should have already been paid off. I will go shopping in Winston Salem, Roanoake, or Knoxville so that I will not have to go to Charleston. Why not put tolls on I-79 from Charleston to Morgantown or on I-64 from Huntington to Charleston.

    • BH

      Good idea!

  • blugldmn

    It came from a democratic congress...

  • wvtd

    the turnpike toll is nothing more than a way to extract more money from stupid hillbilly's. how does it benefit the citizens? might as well take the toll money to help pay for obamas big mess.

  • charles

    Blue Ribbon Panel had 9 meetings? I thought we had 55 counties. Did they talk to just a few to hear what they want to hear??

  • Bobsowv

    Im not sure who from the "Turnpike Counties" were consulted? Why should I continue to pay for all roads in WV, let everyone buy an EZ pass like I do and then we can talk...... fair. I drive the Turnpike every day, unlike those on the Blue Ribbon Panel. I've been patiently waiting on the day when I don't have to pay and have been fooled once already with an extension. I will not vote for any legislator who screws the "Turnpike Counties" again.

    • Nick

      I agree...80% of the people or more in the turnpike counties do not want them extended.

  • Rodney Hytonen

    As for the highway tolls, roads should all, big and small, be completely upgraded and paid for by the horizontal fracking drillers, who bang the inadequate (and many decrepit,) roads with an average 2THOUSAND unconventionally heavy truck trips PER WELL FRACKED.
    That doesn't even begin to pay for the damage to the infrastructure beneath them, which won't even show until after they leave.

  • Rodney Hytonen

    "Obamaphones from Tomblin?"
    When Reagan started the program?
    Check your facts.
    "The Telecommunications Act of 1934 (FDR) created the FCC and established the informal policy of providing universal service to “all the people of the United States.”
    In 1985 (First Free Senior Phone- REAGAN,)
    the FCC implemented Lifeline to help low-income households in case phone rates increased after the breakup of AT&T.
    The Telecommunications Act of 1996
    (cell became cheaper than landline- CLINTON) codified the universal service policy." -

    • GregG

      Don't you get tired of hearing the "Obama Phone" line? I sure do!! Of course, more times than not, it comes from the mouth of someone that worships Ronald Reagan.

      • bulldog95

        I know that this stuff started a long time ago but it has changed over the years. The Obama phone line line has stuck for a couple of years, mostly because the budget for it has exploded under his time in office, its now over 2 billion a year. Another reason is because most people never heard of free phones being thrown out like candy at a parade during the Bush years. Lastly, it doesnt help when those "scumbags" with a hidden camera catch people talking about them, giving them away from huge buckets.

  • C. F. T.

    Why defend the tolls if they are so good for the well being of us over taxed citizens?, next the 47% will receive free EZee passes from Tomlin just like they get free Obama phones.