CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Even though the West Virginia Parkways Authority’s new $24 three-year single fee discount program won’t officially be available until Sept. 15, thousands of Turnpike customers are getting a jump on the savings.
Parkways Authority General Manager Gregg Barr said the authority opened 6,000 new West Virginia E-Z pass accounts in July, which is about 5,000 more than normal.
Barr said customers are signing up for the authority’s existing $5 program that that was set up years ago for those using the Turnpike at least three times a year or those who frequently pass through the North Beckley toll plaza. That program, with its existing transponders, will be converted into the new $24 program Sept. 15. The current program does not charge for the transponder. The new program will charge customers a one-time $13 fee for the piece of equipment. So essentially those signing up before Sept. 15 won’t have to pay for the transponder.
Barr expects thousands of motorists to sign up between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31, when the total price will be $37, which is still a deep discount.
“That will mean over three years of unlimited use of the Turnpike for $37–so it’s not a bad deal,” Barr said.
The one-time $24 rate for three years is part of an overall program that will include toll changes on the Turnpike beginning Jan. 1, 2019, when most current toll rates will double. The new money will fund a bond issue that will pay for new roads and bridges in 10 southern West Virginia counties. The authority is scheduled to close on a $172 million bond sale Tuesday.
Barr said the interest in the new discount program has caused the authority to add workers.
“We probably have close to 10 new people in customer service. It’s not only the call center but it’s the fulfillment center that has to process the orders, program the transponders and put them in the mail,” he said.
Barr said the the transponders issued are only for a single vehicle. He said customers have to sign a terms and conditions document.
“The license plate number is going to registered to that transponder and so if for some reason you’re driving and we get a read that the transponder is not matching the plate and vice-versa, we are going to contact you and remind you,” he said.
The annual pass will cost $25 a year for everyone signing up beginning Jan. 1, 2019 and after. Those taking advantage of the one-time rate of $24 will be charged the annual fee after Dec. 31, 2021. The discount program only applies to passenger vehicles.
The plan for a discounted rate was originally proposed by Gov. Jim Justice and approved by state lawmakers in 2017.
The $5 limited E-Z pass program goes away when the $24 unlimited program begins, Barr said.