West Virginia law promotes more toll roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/24/2017

A new law in West Virginia will raise toll rates, and could lead to more toll roads.

As part of a special session to address the state’s budget, Gov. Jim Justice has signed into law a piece of legislation that amends, revises and repeals multiple sections of state code that cover tolling.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association communicated to West Virginia lawmakers during the special session concerns about the bill. The truckers group said the legislation would negatively affect nearly 1,000 professional drivers residing in the state and thousands more who operate on the state’s highways daily.

Among the provisions in SB1003 that drew the attention of OOIDA is permission for the Parkways Authority to continue collecting tolls beyond the previous deadline of 2019; increase toll rates; authority to issue parkway revenue bonds to fund non-parkway public highways and bridges; and allow for tolling in other areas of the state.

Existing highways could not be tolled.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of government affairs, said the changes in statute send the wrong message to many professional drivers.

“In effect, this legislation sends a message to our nation’s small-business truckers that West Virginia is not open for business.”

He adds that OOIDA is generally supportive of equitable investments in transportation infrastructure.

“Transportation projects that enhance safety, reduce congestion, and improve operational efficiency are good for the trucking industry, the motoring public, and consumers,” he said. “However, there is nothing equitable about the approved changes.”

Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr said a traffic and revenue study will determine how much tolls will increase. The new toll rates are expected to be in place by the end of this year.

“Much work will be needed to get to that point, including public meetings in the four counties adjacent to the Turnpike,” Barr said in prepared remarks.

Also approved by state lawmakers is a proposed constitutional amendment – SJR6 – to aid transportation work.

If approved by voters on the Oct. 7 ballot, the Legislature will issue and sell $1.6 billion in bonds over the next four years to build and upgrade the state’s roads and bridges.

Repayment of the bond debt would come via additional dollars available through vehicle tax and fee increases approved during the same special session.

As of July 1, the state’s fuel tax rate was raised by 3.5 cents. Specifically, SB1006 increased the variable component based on wholesale price from a minimum of 11.7 cents per gallon to 15.2 cents. The flat portion of the fuel tax remains at 20.5 cents

The motor vehicle sales tax, or privilege tax, is raised from 5 percent to 6 percent.

Various fees imposed by the state Department of Motor Vehicles also increased. In all, the tax and fee increases included in SB1006 are estimated to raise about $130 million yearly.

To view other legislative activities of interest for West Virginia, click here.

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