CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s been five years since the tolls were increased on the West Virginia Turnpike and members of the state Parkways Authority learned Thursday an aggressive repaving program has now put 74 percent of the pavement on the 88-mile highway at a “good or very good” rating.
“Looking back on 2008, 2009 the rating of the pavement (at good or very good) was down in the 30s (percent range). It’s really been a remarkable increase,” Parkways engineering consultant Randy Epperly told MetroNews Thursday.
One of things the authority promised residents when it raised the tolls for passenger vehicles from $1.25 to $2.00 in 2009 was the pavement rating would reach the “good” stage on 80 percent of the highway by 2019. Epperly told authority members Thursday the highway will reach that level ahead of 2019.
The current bonds that finance the Turnpike are scheduled to be paid off by 2019 when the tolls could be taken off and the highway turned over to the state Division of Highways. A final decision on that possibility has yet to be made.
The paving program has progressed on two fronts; a thick overlay of the old concrete highway and a thinner layer of asphalt over existing paved sections. The Parkways Authority voted Thursday to spend another $10 million this year on the maintenance-type repaving projects. The authority will consider two major projects calling for the overlay of concrete sections at its July meeting.
Epperly said the biggest need on the Turnpike in the next five years will be bridge decks and culverts, many which have been around since the Turnpike opened in the 1950s. He said those will continue to be a need beyond 2019.
“They don’t last forever despite all of the efforts we’ve done to extend the decks and the smoothness and in addition to the decks, the culverts, there are pipes that were put in the early 50s that are still out there,” he said.