BECKLEY, W.Va. — The West Virginia Parkways Authority may decide in the not-too-distant future to get out of the travel plaza business on the West Virginia Turnpike.
There are currently three travel plazas on the 88-mile toll road from Charleston to Princeton and not only does the Parkways Authority own the land at the Morton, Beckley and Bluestone plazas, but it takes care of nearly all of the maintenance operations on the properties. The actual operations of the restaurants and gas stations are through a lease with a vendor.
More and more states are pulling away from having much to do at all with travel plazas on their toll roads, Turnpike Consulting Engineer Randy Epperly said.
“That’s sort of the national trend. It takes the maintenance and everything away from them,” Epperly said. “There’s pluses and minuses to it but most tolling agencies have found out it’s better to let private industries take care of that.”
Epperly said the Parkways Authority would still own the land and the rights-of-way but it would allow the private sector to fully operate the facilities.
“You can save money just from the pure standpoint of reducing the amount of maintenance activities, the number of people it takes to remove the snow and ice from the parking lots and all of that. It really helps the Turnpike as it looks toward the future of its maintenance costs,” Epperly said.
There are no immediate plans to make the change but Epperly did not include the maintenance for the travel plazas as part of the highway’s 30-year plan that was discussed last week.
The change may come when its determined the travel plaza buildings have to be rebuilt. Epperly said that decision is coming soon.