By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor
History has proved that truckers will avoid toll roads if the rates get too high. Upon learning that the proposed U.S. Route 35 toll project in West Virginia could carry a toll of $1.21 per mile for five-axle vehicles, truckers are already saying they won’t use it.
“They’re shoving it down our throat even though we’ve told them no,” said trucker and OOIDA Life Member Scott Cadle of New Haven, WV. Cadle admits that the current two-lane U.S. 35 is in dire need of widening or replacement, but he doesn’t like the proposed alternative.
“I’ve not talked to any owner-operator or company that will run it,” Cadle told Land Line. “Everybody I’ve talked to say they won’t run it. The majority will not pay that kind of toll.”
The West Virginia Parkways Authority’s financial report dated Nov. 2, 2010, includes a schedule of toll rates for the proposed 14-mile portion of a four-lane U.S. 35 in Mason and Putnam counties.
According to the toll schedule, two toll plazas will be set up. Truckers paying cash will be asked to pay $8.50 at each plaza, or $17 for a full-length trip, which amounts to $1.21 per mile. E-ZPass account holders would pay $8.08 for fix axles at each plaza, or $16.16 for a full trip, which amounts to $1.15 per mile.
Toll increases would be guaranteed every four years through the proposed sunset date of 2043. Toll rates toward the end of the contract are proposed at $16 for five axle vehicles per toll plaza, or $32 for a full-length trip. That amounts to $2.29 per mile.
OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said toll scenarios like this are popping up in a number of states. He says truckers should be making their voices heard on the issues.
“This is an example of what we’re going to continue to see, where local, state and federal authorities and politicians wrestle with how to pay for additional highway capacity,” Joyce said.
“Without a federal highway bill, this is going to become common. OOIDA members need to be vigilant in educating their lawmakers – whether it is at the local, state or federal levels – about the cost to our nation’s commerce when it comes to toll roads.”
Cadle adds that some area residents are considering a legal challenge of the way the roadway was approved. Some county commissioners who originally voted “yes” for the proposal later changed their votes to “no” in the wake of public outcry. The state’s supreme court later ruled that the “no” votes did not count and upheld the original “yes” votes.
Public hearings in December 2010 drew scattered support but plenty of opposition.
A public comment period remains open until Jan. 21. Comments may be filed online at www.wvturnpike.com; by calling the Parkways Authority at 304 926 1900; by visiting the administration office at 3310 Piedmont Road, Charleston, WV 25306; or by sending mail to: West Virginia Parkways Authority, ATTN: “Comments on Proposed Imposition of Tolls on U.S. Route 35 Parkway Project,” P.O. Box 1469, Charleston, WV 25325.
Copyright 2011 by OOIDA