CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was finally seen at the headquarters of the state Parkways Authority Wednesday night.
Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr told MetroNews Thursday they finally got caught up on the backlog of applications for the deeply discounted EZPass program the night before.
“People were signing up on line (Wednesday night) and we were processing them and mailing them (the transponders) out,” Barr said.
The immediate turnaround represented quite a change from two weeks ago when the backlog of applications was 20,000 causing the Parkways Authority, at the urging of Gov. Jim Justice, to extend the application deadline for the $24 three-year unlimited use EZPass until Jan. 11. On New Year’s Eve, the authority voted to delay the scheduled Jan. 1 toll increase on the West Virginia Turnpike until Jan. 15.
“We caught up all of those, 20,000 transponder applications, and since then we’ve done another 22,000, since Jan. 2, so that’s 42,000 total,” Barr said.
Parkways Authority workers long with 152 workers from other state agencies have been working day and night on the applications. Barr has also processed his share of applications at a makeshift processing center in the authority’s conference room.
“It’s been our toll collectors, our toll foremen, they’ve come in and worked in the evenings and come in extra during the day. And then of course, our staff has been working over every day, all of our staff, I mean, accounting, purchasing, everybody has been chipping in to get this done,” Barr said.
The number of EZPass applications dramatically increased last month and then the company the authority contracts with to run its tolling system, Transcore, had technical problems with its software interface causing the authority’s website to shutdown for four days.
Barr said Transcore worked with the state to get the site up and running again. Some authority members mentioned the possibility at Thursday’s Parkways Authority meeting about pursuing some kind of legal against the company for the website problems.
“It cost us a lot of expense and revenue,” authority member Doug Epling said.
Authority chair Ann Urling, who represents Gov. Jim Justice on the Parkways Authority, said legal action was worth a look.
“From the governor’s office perspective, it’s something we will explore,” Urling said.
Meanwhile, Barr said the Parkways Authority was going to have to hire some more permanent workers for its customer service division.
“We have a staff now of 33 that manage 45,000 EZPass accounts but now it’s skyrocketed up over 120,000 (accounts) so we’re going to have to beef up that staff,” Barr said.
Barr said there have been about 80,000 new EZPass accounts created since September. He said 95 percent of the new accounts are from West Virginia residents.