West Virginia governor won’t allow lawmakers to set tolls

| 4/11/2007

Gov. Joe Manchin vetoed a bill that would have given the West Virginia Legislature the power to approve toll changes along the West Virginia Turnpike before they go into effect.

The governor said he was concerned the bill would hamper efforts to move quickly on needed repairs and other work along the 88-mile toll route that runs from Charleston to Princeton. He said it also would hurt the state’s bond rating.

The bill – SB738 – was intended to provide some protection from toll increases. At issue was a January 2006 toll rate increase implemented by the state’s Parkways, Economic Development and Tourism Authority. The group increased rates from $4.25 to $7 for five-axle trucks and from $1.25 to $2 for passenger vehicles without public notice or input.

A Kanawha County judge soon ordered toll rates to be rolled back. She cited insufficient public notice when the hikes were proposed. In addition, a state law was later passed that requires public notice and public hearings before the authority can increase tolls.

In an effort to appease those calling for legislative oversight in the wake of his veto, Manchin promised to offer legislation that would restrict toll revenues to projects that involve maintenance and improvements to the turnpike, including widening the road where needed, The Register-Herald reported.

Supporters of legislative oversight remain committed to their goal of allowing lawmakers to provide input in what people are paying to use the turnpike. They plan to bring the issue back for consideration in the future.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor