BECKLEY, W.Va. — Thanksgiving travel through the Mountain State via the West Virginia Turnpike was up this year, according to the West Virginia Parkways Authority.
General Manager Greg Barr told MetroNews in a report before the holiday they anticipated between a one to two percent increase in transactions. The actual number came close to that range totaling .7 percent.
This equals roughly 788,444 transactions along the 88-mile highway between Tuesday, November 21 through Sunday, November 26. During the same period in 2016, 782,972 transactions were processed through the tolls. This is an increase of 5,472.
“Most of that was on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday where we saw our increases,” Barr told MetroNews affiliate WJLS Tuesday. “The busiest days, Wednesday and Sunday were actually down a few hundred per day. So it’s kind of like people were maybe leaving a little bit earlier, not traveling as much on the busiest day of the year.”
Sunday was the busiest day of the year, as expected. Barr said they counted roughly 179,000 transactions on that day alone.
“On Sunday they all seem to come at about the same time, it’s all compressed into a shorter time frame when people are traveling. So it really gets busy and congested between 11 and 5 o’clock.”
Toll booth workers used traffic management procedures like tandem lanes. This way, workers can serve an estimated 50-60 more cars per lane, per hour.
Barr compared these lanes to dual drive through windows at a fast food restaurant.
“It’s the same concept. We’ll have another booth right after the first booth you come to in the same lane. We can wave traffic forward to the second booth, and then start taking money at the first booth and the second booth at the same time.”
Another traffic management procedure are the toll booths’ reversible toll lanes. Workers can switch direction of the lanes depending on the flow of traffic.
“If things really are busy in one direction more so than the other, we can reverse a lane and have six lanes in one direction and four in the other. That also can help us clear out congestion if something happens that creates one side to be a lot busier than another.”
Barr cited the fair weather and gas prices being up only 10 percent over last year as possible factors in the traffic spike.