CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Parkways Authority hopes to process at least 4,000 applications a day over the next few weeks to get caught up on a 20,000 backlog of orders for the $24 three-year unlimited use EZPass for the West Virginia Turnpike.
Parkways General Manager Greg Barr said Wednesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” the agency is working 16-hours a day on processing the applications.
“We’ve actually turned our conference room into like a ‘war room’ and added 17 more computers. Our night-shift will run from 4:30 to 12:30. We’ll have 40 people processing these orders and mailing out the transponders,” Barr said.
Parkways began offering the transponders in late September and there was no backlog through Nov. 30 but a last minute rush to beat the original Dec. 31 deadline crashed the agency’s computer system causing thousands of residents to show up at the Parkways Authority’s office last week to purchase their EZPasses in person. The agency’s resources were put toward the in-person applications causing the online, fax and by-mail orders to back-up.
“This surge was 15 times more than what we anticipated. It was really a tremendous outpouring,” Barr said.
The website is running again, it’s averaging about 3,000 applications a day since Sunday. The lines at the authority’s office have decreased. The new deadline to apply for the cheap EZPass is Jan. 11. Barr is hopeful they have the backlog significantly reduced by then.
“If we get 30 people, for example, working eight-hour shifts on a night shift they could do up to 3,000 that evening,” Barr said.
The Turnpike toll increase approved last summer is on hold until Jan. 15 following a Parkways Authority vote on New Year’s Eve to delay the new rates for two weeks. The increased tolls, a basic doubling of existing tolls, will pay off a $166 million 30-year bond issue sold last fall to finance highway construction projects. Delaying the toll increase will cost the authority about $2 million in revenue.
Barr said if there are motorists who have applied for an EZPass but haven’t yet received it, they may be able to be reimbursed for the tolls they are now paying.
“Ask for a receipt (at the toll plaza), hold on to those receipts, and we’re looking for a way to be able to provide an affidavit confirming that people had ordered their transponders and they can mail those receipts into us for a refund,” he said.
Barr predicts the Parkways Authority will sell more than 100,000 $24 EZPasses before the Jan. 11 deadline.
“I think the popularity has just really caught on. They bought them for Christmas (stocking) stuffers and word of mouth, everybody telling everybody, we’ve really been slammed,’ he said.
The cheap pass was originally the idea of Gov. Jim Justice. It was approved by state lawmakers in 2017 as part of the Roads to Prosperity program. The Parkways Authority finalized the specifics in a vote last summer.