CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Parkways Authority approved a resolution Thursday that puts into motion plans to sell up to $500 million in revenue bonds to pay for road construction projects in 10 southern West Virginia counties.
The plan, proposed by Gov. Jim Justice and approved by state lawmakers, calls for a entire reworking of the Turnpike’s tolling system.
A traffic and revenue report is expected to be done by the end of the calendar year, Parkways Authority General Manger Greg Barr.
“Once that revenue study is completed then that’s when we’ll start being able to calculate what the potential size of the bond issue will be,” Barr said.
The new state law calls for a single-pay annual pass to be offered to both in-state and out-of-state residents for passenger vehicles anywhere from $8 to $25, which is much less than the current annual discounted toll rates. Barr said that will likely result in toll increases for those who don’t have the passes.
“I’d say you’d have to (increase tolls). I mean, obviously, if all you did was give everybody an $8 pass, all of the passenger cars, then we’re going to lose a lot of money,” he said.
Parkways-hired traffic and revenue engineers will determine through surveys and other statistical information toll increase options and bonding capacity.
“They’re going to use web-based surveys for the EZ pass customers and postcards, handouts by the toll collectors, for the cash paying customers, so we can get these people to respond to the survey,” Barr said.
Barr said one option is to transition to the higher toll.
Gov. Justice has mentioned a possible doubling of the current $2 toll, Barr said.
“To me the governor is thinking somewhere between a 50 percent and 100 percent increase but that’s without a study,” Barr said.
The law requires public meetings in the Turnpike counties to gain input before final decisions are made about the annual pass and future tolls, Barr said.
Once the bonds are sold the tolls will pay the debt payment and the money from the bonds will be placed in a special road fund account controlled by the state Division of Highways for projects in 10 southern counties.