BECKLEY, W.Va. — During Thursday’s meeting of the West Virginia Parkways Authority Board, General Manager Greg Barr told members a recommendation to award a technical services consulting contract regarding the eventual replacement of the Turnpike’s aging toll plaza computer network will be made in June.

Barr told MetroNews the first step in the process will be selecting an engineering consultant from among three firms currently under consideration.

WV Parkways Authority

Greg Barr

“Under state law, when you hire an engineer, you have to select the most qualified,” he said. “Once you select the most qualified, you have to sit down and negotiate scope (of service) and fee. And, if you can arrive at a reasonable fee and scope, then you can bring that forward and accept it. If not, you have to go to the second-most-qualified engineer and start negotiating scope and fee with them.”

Barr said the consulting work essentially will be a three-step process, and will take approximately six to eight months to complete.

“They’ll come in and inventory everything we have and make a determination of what we need to upgrade and how much we need to upgrade. That will then allow them to write up the specifications to bid out the upgrade to a toll system integrator that will actually come in, provide the hardware, the software, and assemble the system,” said Barr.

“Then, that consultant will also stay on board, and when we get the proposals in to upgrade the system, they’ll help us review those proposals and help us select the correct integrator to do the work. And then, they’ll actually inspect the installation of the equipment, when the integrator puts it in, to make sure it’s meeting the specifications.”

According to Barr, the type of computer networking system used by the Parkways Authority typically has a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, before technological changes necessitate an upgrade. He said the current system has been in use since 2011.

“You can imagine a 10-year-old computer slaving away as a server to run a toll system. They just run down, the parts become — a lack of availability for parts for the servers. And, we also have cameras in the lanes. We have readers that read all these transponders, and there’s a lot changing in technology over 10 years. So, the time has come,” he said.

The Turnpike computer network currently in use does not utilize tri-protocol readers, which are able to recognize different types of transponders being used in other areas of the county. Barr said tri-protocol readers have become the industry standard and necessarily will need to be part of the network upgrade.

The three firms under consideration for the consulting work are HNTB Corporation, Stantec Inc., and TTI Consulting. Barr said the Parkways Authority Evaluation Committee considers HNTB to be the best qualified among the three companies, all of which have specialized divisions for toll system consulting and evaluation.

Barr estimated completion of the computer network upgrade initiative within three years.