Truckers hope to influence West Virginia toll proposal

| 1/25/2011

It came together on short notice and was only a handful of trucks, but Monday?s convoy in opposition to a proposed tolled U.S. highway in West Virginia had the same impact as if it were 100, trucker Scott Cadle said.

Cadle, a life member of OOIDA, helped lead truckers and area residents first to a meeting of the West Virginia Parkways Authority to speak their opposition to a tolled U.S. 35, and then to the state capital to meet with lawmakers.

?We expressed our opinion that we didn?t want the toll road,? Cadle told Land Line Now.

For starters, Cadle says, the toll rate is excessive at $1.21 per mile for five-axle vehicles.

?They?re charging you for about 14 miles of new road, and $17 to go across is completely ridiculous, especially when the state has the money in other places. They could find other ways to pay for the project,? he said.

The Parkways Authority intends to meet Feb. 3 to vote on the plan, spokesman Brent Walker said.

Walker, director of communications for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, says West Virginia, like most states, is facing budget shortfalls.

?We?re primarily funded through the gas tax,? Walker told Land Line Magazine. ?We?re not funded through other money from the state legislature. Other states have that, but we do not.?

Walker said the ability for the state to obtain bond financing for new roadways relies on interest rates, and those rates continue to fluctuate.

?It?s a situation we?re not alone in facing,? he said.

The current two-lane U.S. 35 in Mason and Putnam counties is narrow and unsafe, especially when people try to pass. But the tolled parallel highway that would open in 2013 if it is approved doesn?t sit well with those who would pay the tolls.

Public comments were accepted until Friday, Jan. 21. Monday?s meeting was to go over those comments. Cadle and others took the opportunity to drive home their position.

?They listened to everybody?s comments,? he said. ?I think they?re squirming pretty hard right now because they?re getting a lot of negative feedback.?

The presence of the truckers was small in number only, Cadle said.

?We only had four. I was disappointed in the turnout (but) we had as much positive impact as if it would have been a hundred, I guess.?

Following the meeting, the truckers and area residents moved on to the capital in Charleston to meet with two state senators. Their purpose is to influence legislation that would require voter approval in each county before a toll road can be built.

?We?re hoping that they?ll upgrade the existing two lane, widen the shoulders, make some pull-offs and things like that ? and enforce the speed limit, Cadle said.

?It?s the most dangerous road in the state of West Virginia ? and it should have been a four-lane 50 years ago, but the state let us down.?

OOIDA issued a call to action prior to the comment deadline encouraging truckers to make their voices heard on the issues.

The Parkways Authority is now taking the comments under advisement.

?No matter what side you?re on, it?s been a good exercise in sociology,? said Walker. ?It?s just the way people have interacted and expressed their views. I think the intent of the board is to vote on that on Feb. 3.?

Previous coverage:

Truckers say $1.21 per mile is unfair for West Virginia toll road
Jan. 21: Deadline to comment on West Virginia toll project