West Virginia eyes 60 percent toll increase for trucks

| 4/15/2009

As part of a plan unveiled by the West Virginia Parkways Authority, tolls on the state turnpike would increase by 60 percent for five-axle commercial vehicles.

The current base toll for commercial trucks is $4.25, which would increase to $6.75 as part of the turnpike plan announced Friday, April 10.

Tolls for passenger vehicles would also increase by 60 percent to $2 from a base toll of $1.25 under the preferred option offered by the parkways authority. Parkways officials and the firm of Wilbur Smith Associates offered 11 scenarios for officials to consider, ranging from no increase to an 80 percent increase for all vehicles.

Parkways officials are required to have three public hearings whenever toll changes are considered. Those hearings are tentatively scheduled for the week of May 19-22.

The preferred plan for the authority would translate to $73 million extra per year in 2010 – up to $100 million per year by 2025 based on traffic projections – to pay for operation, maintenance and improvements in the turnpike system. Officials have deferred improvements totaling millions as traffic and revenue became stagnant.

Turnpike officials stated that they are wary of toll increases driving traffic away from the turnpike.

When times are tough, truckers don’t need many incentives to head for the toll-free roads according to the leadership of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“What a terrible time to raise tolls. These increases make West Virginia and our nation less competitive in the global marketplace,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said.

“They increase the cost of production and delivery of goods, and force highway users to other less favorable, but less costly routes.”

A recent study conducted in Ohio showed commercial vehicles left the state turnpike following a toll increase. Traffic returned when the toll increase was rescinded.

Joyce said there aren’t many alternatives around the West Virginia Turnpike, but truckers are good at finding the routes that best suit their operations.

– By David Tanner, staff writer