BECKLEY, W.Va. — The West Virginia Parkways Authority voted Thursday to move forward with a proposal to open an E-ZPass customer service center in Beckley.

General Manager Greg Barr told MetroNews the need for such a facility is being generated by the popularity of the E-ZPass discount program on the West Virginia Turnpike, adding it has resulted in the addition of more than 100,000 new accounts.

“A lot of those people live in southern West Virginia. They live in Bluefield, Princeton, Beckley. Yet, our headquarters are up in Charleston,” he said. “We thought it’s time that — we have that many more people now that need customer service, swap out transponders, and ask questions — that we move a little office into the Beckley area to make it a shorter trip for people to get their problems taken care of.”

WV Parkways Authority

Greg Barr

According to Barr, the Beckley customer service center would function as a substation and employ no greater than five people.

The board also approved a proposal to consolidate some of the maintenance services at two Parkways facilities in Beckley. Barr said the move had to be delayed until questions about the long-term future of the agency were resolved.

“There’s a section in the state code that said after the bonds were paid off on the Turnpike, the Parkways Authority would be turned over to the Division of Highways free of tolls. The DOH would maintain it like any other road,” he said.

Barr added when Gov. Jim Justice took office, he realized the revenue generated by the tolls on the Turnpike, in which 78% comes from out-of-state motorists.

“If the tolls had come off, it just would have put a greater burden on the Division of Highways,” he noted. “No extra revenue and just more expense to try to keep the road maintained.”

According to Barr, this led to the E-ZPass program related to the 2017 Roads to Prosperity amendment.

A specific timetable for consolidation of maintenance services in Beckley has not been determined. Barr said the move would cost around $1 million.