Bill to cut interchange project heads to West Virginia governor's desk

| Monday, March 27, 2006

A bill headed to West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin would eliminate a mandated $55 million interchange along the state’s turnpike in Raleigh County. It also would prevent the selling of bonds without lawmakers’ approval.

The state’s House and Senate signed off on the bill after a circuit judge’s decision to roll back tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike.

The measure would rescind a 2004 law that requires the state’s Parkways, Economic Development and Tourism Authority to build an interchange at Shady Spring.

A $62 million lane-widening project near the North Beckley interchange and other road and bridge work remain.

The Parkways Authority said the cost to build the Shady Spring interchange led them to implement new tolls Jan. 1 at each of the turnpike’s three toll plazas. The rates were increased from $4.25 to $7 for five-axle trucks and from $1.25 to $2 for passenger vehicles.

In mid February, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Irene Berger granted a temporary injunction sought by businesses that use the 88-mile toll route that runs from Charleston to Princeton, The Associated Press reported. She agreed with them that the public did not receive sufficient public notice when the hikes were proposed.

The toll decrease took effect immediately. It also halted any other increases in tolls until further order by the courts.

The bill – SB557 – also would mandate that bonds only could be sold to refinance debt. Any new bonds for construction could not be sold without the Legislature’s backing.

In addition, the measure would require public notice and public hearings before the authority could increase toll rates.

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