West Virginia lawmakers: toll hikes were unexpected

| 12/28/2005

A pair of West Virginia state lawmakers say they had no idea a bill they approved last year would contribute to toll increases on the West Virginia Turnpike.

The toll boosts, approved this month, have drawn criticism from several legislators and business owners. They say the higher fees are an unfair burden on southern West Virginia residents and companies that use the 88-mile highway that stretches from Charleston to Princeton.

On Jan. 1, 2006, the rate for large trucks at each of the three toll plazas is scheduled to increase about 65 percent from $4.25 to $7. Passenger vehicles will see rates jump 60 percent from $1.25 to $2, The Associated Press reported.

Gov. Joe Manchin said a 2004 law that mandated a new $55 million interchange at Shady Spring in Raleigh County was a factor in the toll hikes. The project was included in a bill authorizing a bond issue of $100 million for repairs and improvements on the turnpike.

Republican Sens. Jesse Guills of Greenbrier and Don Caruth of Mercer said they had no idea the Shady Spring project was included in the legislation, or that it would lead to higher tolls.

“That’s the first I ever heard of it,” Caruth told The AP. “We can’t possibly know what’s in every bill, especially in funding bills. If I missed this, shame on me.”

“I’ve got egg on my face,” Guills added.