CHARLESTON, W.Va — State Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said with a soon-to-be new law the state will have something more to offer companies interested in helping the state finish some of its major road construction projects.
Members of the state legislature passed the Electronic Toll Collection Act during the recently completed legislative session. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature. It would put language in place for electronic toll collection on highways if it’s ever needed.
Transportation Secretary Mattox said there are currently no plans for new toll roads but the option is something to go along with the existing public-private partnership state law.
“If we had the electronic tolling component, which now we do, it makes it more attractive for those companies looking at potential toll road projects in the state,” he said.
West Virginia’s federal funding for highway construction has been stagnant or decreasing in recent years and a lot of Road Fund money is going to maintenance projects. It is possible public-private partnerships will be the way to go to finish projects like U.S. Route 35, the Coalfields Expressway, King Coal Highway and others.
Mattox said passing the toll bill is a step with preparation in mind not reactionary.
“It’s so much easier having that on the books, already existing, than it is if you have an interested company coming into West Virginia with a project in mind and you say, ‘We don’t have that legislation and we’ll have to work with the legislature to put it in place,'” Mattox said.
Some lawmakers were concerned with the bill because they thought it will mean some existing roads would be turned into toll roads or possibly the toll collectors on the West Virginia Turnpike were being removed.
“There were a lot of misperceptions and mistruths and they just did not understand the intent or the importance of having the legislation on the books,” Mattox said about the bill’s opponents. “I believe there are 27 states that have that type of legislation on the books.”
The bill was introduced by the governor and it’s expected he’ll sign it into law in a few days.