The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 6, 2012

Turnpike not promoting E-ZPass enough?

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

— Frequent flyers are using the E-ZPass discount system in higher numbers, but West Virginia Parkways Authority officials are convinced even more should be taking advantage of reduced costs to use the Turnpike.

“There’s an increase in usage,” finance director Parrish French said after Tuesday’s meeting of the governing board in Beckley.

“But there are still people out there I know could use the E-ZPass and get a discount, but they insist on paying cash, for whatever reason.”

Turnpike Manager Greg Barr said he cannot explain why more commuters aren’t signing up to use a transponder that allows cheaper travel.

“I think maybe it’s a lack of understanding, or realizing how much money they can save using it,” he said.

Rather than shell out $2 in cash at a toll plaza, a motorist can whiz on through with a transponder for a savings of $1.30. Truckers realize a savings per toll of $1.50.

“It’s just surprising,” Barr said. “Maybe we need to do more advertising.”

In a related vein, Barr led the authority into approving a $41,000 change order for TransCore, the coast-to-coast outfit with an office in Pennsylvania, to tweak the system so that any remaining bugs are removed.

“This will enable us to modify the Web interface and to allow the individual E-ZPass customers to have their accounts processed more efficiently,” Barr said.

With this approval, change orders now have reached $50,000 in the $6 million system, the Turnpike manager said.

“We’re still well under 1 percent of the total contract change orders,” he said.

A new audit, meantime, finds the authority is managing the 88-mile toll road operation in a clean, efficient manner.

“We did not find anything of a material weakness or a significant deficiency,” Joellen Lucas, a certified public accountant with the Charleston firm of Suttle & Stalnaker told the authority.

Travel over the long Thanksgiving week holiday was down compared to last year’s four-day totals by about 1.5 percent, Barr told the board.

But through the end of November, this year’s traffic is still running about 1.2 percent ahead of 2011, he said.

“We’re running in the vicinity of that 1 percent increase we were looking for,” Barr said.

The board agreed to award a contract for $84,000 to West Virginia Glass to replace or repair doors at Tamarack, the artisans showplace at the Beckley exit.

In another matter, the board recognized Ron Hamilton, who is retiring after nine years as maintenance director, although he will return next year in a different role on a temporary basis.

His old post will be split into two positions, one of director of maintenance to be filled by Jim Meadows, while Hamilton will serve as chief engineer, although his work time must be limited since he cannot exceed $15,000 in salary while collecting a state pension.

“He has done a great job for us,” Barr said of Hamilton.

“He is a great planner and implementer of ideas and setting goals. We’re going to miss him.”

— E-mail: