The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 7, 2013

Turnpike bill would give share of tolls to counties

CHARLESTON — For half a century, southern West Virginians have dutifully shelled out dollars to ride the 88-mile-long Turnpike, and now one senator thinks it is time for them to get some home-grown benefit in return.

A bill led by Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, would dedicate one-half of 1 percent of the annual take in tolls to the four counties bordering the Princeton-to-Charleston highway — Raleigh, Mercer, Fayette and Kanawha.

“The only way we’re going to help our counties, like having a horse park in Mercer, and different things in economic development, in Raleigh County, for instance, is to give a little pinch of what they’re taking in,” he said Wednesday.

Using figures by the West Virginia Parkways Authority, which operates the Turnpike, the senator figures all four counties would pocket about $1 million apiece.

Last year, Chafin pointed out, the Turnpike took in $83,907,000 in tolls, and another $7,217,000 in other revenues, for a total of $91,124,000.

Deducting operating expenses, that left the authority with $11,186,000, he said.

“They’ve had enough to build Tamarack and all kinds of other things,” Chafin said.

Chafin recalled how he and the late Senate Minority Leader Don Caruth, R-Mercer, fought the authority for years over the relentless toll system.

“The distinguished minority leader and I fought many gallant fights out there to try to do something about those tolls,” he said.

“It’s (Turnpike) been paid off but they keep re-upping it.”

Under state law, the tolls could be dismantled in 2019, the year outstanding bonds are to be satisfied, but Chafin isn’t optimistic about this happening.

“They’re not going to take the tolls off in 2019, most likely,” he said.

Chafin said he chose one-half of 1 percent for the four counties because a higher amount might provide fodder to the authority that removing too much money would jeopardize its ability to pay off the bond indebtedness.

“This is just a little start,” he said.

“It takes a little bit back to those people who have paid for it.”

Thirteen fellow senators signed on to his bill, including Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bob Beach, D-Monongalia.

“When you have the transportation chairman sign on, and you have senators from the four counties, you have a good chance of getting it out of the Senate,” Chafin said.

Another co-sponsor is freshman Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer, who will see to it that the funds are equally split among the four counties, he said.

Another bill offered in the House by Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, would turn the Turnpike over to the Division of Highways in 2020, once the road has been totally financed.

Money diverted to counties in Chafin’s bill would be dedicated to economic development, and that would embrace infrastructure improvements.

“My charge here is to make the environment in those counties good enough and nice enough that people will want to build a horse park, or locate something there, whether you have an industrial park, or whatever you need,” he said.

“I’m not going to try to micro-manage what county commissions do. They’re elected to do that.”

— E-mail:

Text Only
Local News
  • derby dames Beckley area Derby Dames to host WFTDA team Aug. 9

    The Beckley Area Derby Dames will face off against a WFTDA-certified team, the Harrisonburg, Va., Rocktown Rollers, Aug. 9 at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. 

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • phil roop Artisans show off skills at String Band Festival

    The Appalachian String Band Festival celebrates the music of the mountains each year.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • Calendar — Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

    August 1, 2014

  • VA clinic to remain closed

    The Department of Veterans Affairs Greenbrier County Community Based Outpatient Clinic will remain closed due to ongoing correction of environmental concerns. 

    August 1, 2014

  • Beckley festival seeking vendors

    Taste of Appalachia is seeking restaurants, vendors, organizations and churches to participate in the Aug. 23 event. 

    August 1, 2014

  • 080114 FRI TWV multitalented teen.jpg Only 13, Shady Spring and TWV teen has big resume

    Well-rounded is an understatement for 13-year-old Rachel McNeel. 

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 080114 ST.FrancisTeens.jpg Rummage sale to help teens attend WYD

    Young people at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church will be sponsoring a rummage sale at the church today and Saturday. The sale will help raise money to send the young folks to World Youth Day in Poland to meet Pope Francis.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tamarack lists weekend events

    Tamarack Events Director Kelly Elkins invites everyone to pay a visit to the Best of West Virginia this weekend for free music, a farmer’s market and live artisan demonstrations. 

    August 1, 2014

  • New River CTC celebrates move to new campus

    New River Community and Technical College personnel greeted new neighbors Thursday with cookies and lemonade as furniture was moved into their institution’s new Mercer Street campus in the former First Community Bank building.

    August 1, 2014

  • ‘Biscuit guy’ makes his mark with anthem at TWV

    The old saying “being at the right place at the right time” couldn’t be more true for Calvin Alexander. Thanks to a salad dressing bottle (and some impressive vocal skills), Alexander was invited to sing the national anthem not once, but twice, at Theatre West Virginia before the opening of “Hatfields and McCoys."

    July 31, 2014