Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 3, 2013

Bill to remove turnpike tolls overwhelmingly passes House of Delegates

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

CHARLESTON —  Southern lawmakers on both sides of the aisle led the House of Delegates to overwhelming approval Wednesday of a measure intended to shift the West Virginia Turnpike to the Division of Highways and dismantle toll booths by 2020.

 Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, who sponsored the original bill, insisted that enough money would be in hand to maintain the Princeton-to-Charleston highway and that displaced turnpike workers could either find jobs in state government or elsewhere before the tolls are halted.

“It’s been a good day,” Gearheart said. “That’s a strong vote to come out of the House with. Delegate (Joe) Ellington and I are standing out here on the roof in the sunshine and talking with senators about the bill (HB 3163).”

 Nearly every lawmaker serving the four counties bordering the 88-mile road took the floor, including the only one to vote against it — Delegate Danny Wells, D-Kanawha, who maintained the DOH cannot afford to absorb the costs of running the road.

 Approval came on the last day for the House to get its bills out of the chamber. The measure now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

 Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has indicated such a bill could be "premature," since his own blue ribbon panel on highway needs hasn't completed its report.