Gov. Jim Justice has signed legislation allowing the West Virginia Parkways Authority to increase the tolls on the state turnpike and create a new single fee program in the name of a bond to fund new road projects in southern West Virginia.
The bill is part of his roads package, a set of bills and bond initiatives that will boost revenue for road maintenance and construction and in turn, according to the governor, create jobs.
Senate Bill 1003 keeps the tolls on the state turnpike in place and allows the Parkways Authority to increase those tolls, creating one new source of funding.
The increased toll revenue will be combined with the dollars brought in from a program that, as described in the bill, would allow anyone to pay a single, annual fee to travel through the toll plazas. Together, the revenue will fund a new road bond that will pay for road projects in ten counties in southern West Virginia.
In his discussions of the single fee program, Justice has commonly said the fee will be $8, but the bill allows for a fee of up to $25 with the ability to increase it incrementally over time.
Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr explained a traffic and revenue study will determine just how much the tolls will increase, the cost of that annual fee, and the size of the bond that the two will fund. Barr said it will take several months to complete such a study.
The bill requires, however, that the revenue from the bond must be used in ten southern West Virginia counties surrounding the turnpike itself.
The governor also signed a proclamation Tuesday setting the special election date for his bond initiative for October 7.
The bond that will need to be approved by the voters is not the same as the bond that will be created by the Parkways Authority to fund projects in southern West Virginia.
Instead, the bond put to a vote in October will fund road maintenance and construction projects across West Virginia.
It will be funded by the increases to the gasoline tax and Division of Motor Vehicles fees approved in a separate bill during the special legislative session.