The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on a bill that would affect the way tolls are collected in the state.
House Bill 4156 as introduced would create the Safe and Efficient Parkway Act, authorizes electronic collection and enforcement of tolls.
The bill would only apply to the current tolls on the turnpike in regard to enforcement as it is already equipped with the technology such as photographing license plates to detect violations.
Delegate Marty Gearheart spoke about his concerns of how the enforcement would be implemented by the electronic system. One concern was how the system could possibly determine who should be held accountable for violations.
“This electronic collection process goes into effect and your vehicle passes through a toll booth you automatically become responsible for that whether or not you were the operator of that vehicle or not,” Gearheart said. “Frankly, it is your responsibility even if your car is stolen.”
The bill would apply to future tolls as well, this lead to several speakers from Mason County opposing a rumored toll on the Silver Memorial Bridge to Gallipolis.
Jon Thompson from Letart Corporation Sand and Gravel said “I and several people in Mason County would feel that this tolling if it were to take place on Route 35 between the Silver Bridge at Gallipolis and Route 64 would be equivalent to an economic embargo to our county. It would be a blockade of sorts because trucking companies have alternative routes that could come a different way.”
Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox said that those fears were unfounded because there are no plans to create new tolls because the agency doesn’t have to money to undertake that endeavor.
“We currently in our six year program have no toll roads planned and it’s because we don’t have any budget,” Mattox said. “We only have four or five expansion projects in our next six year program.”
One question raised by the committee members was how the state would be able to enforce penalties on drivers from other states if the offender refused to pay.
Mattox says that the state would seek agreements with other states to work together on that issue similarly to the way states cooperate on other traffic offenses such as speeding. However, they could only seek the agreements if the legislation is passed.
With the testimonies and new information, the committee met this afternoon and renamed House Bill 4156 the Electronic Toll Collection Act.