New West Virginia law cuts interchange project, limits bond selling

| 4/13/2006

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin signed a bill this month eliminating a mandate for a $55 million interchange along the state’s turnpike in Raleigh County. It also prevents the selling of bonds without lawmakers’ approval.

The measure won legislative approval after a circuit judge’s decision to roll back tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike.

The new law, previously SB557, rescinds a 2004 law that required 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 new rule also mandates 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 new law requires public notice and public hearings before the authority could increase toll rates.