Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 8, 2013

Mercer delegate provides insights into Turnpike funds

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — State Delegate John H. Shott, contacted the Bluefield Daily Telegraph Sunday evening to provide some facts about West Virginia Turnpike funds that are not commonly known by the public.

“Don Caruth (former state senator from Mercer County who died in office on May 1, 2010) led the effort to find what kind of funds the turnpike actually generates for the state,” Shott said. “I have sent an email to the senate leadership that contains this information as they consider HB 3163,” Shott said.

The following is the text of Shott’s email letter:

“Good afternoon Senators.

“HB 3163 has been referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on which you serve following its overwhelming passage in the House (97-1). It is commonly known that the Parkways Authority is fully self-sufficient and does not receive any funding from the State or Federal governments. What is not commonly known is the extent to which the existence of the Turnpike effectively subsidizes other roads in West Virginia. This email is intended to provide you with some information regarding that fact.

“The Turnpike’s 88 miles are included in the 555 miles of interstate highways that are supported through the Federal Highways Administration Interstate Maintenance/Rehabilitation program. Beginning in 1998 and continuing through 2009 (the most recent information I have), West Virginia Department of Transportation received a total of $79.5 Million Dollars as the Turnpike’s allocation from that program. Yet not one penny was spent on the Turnpike. Similarly, the federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds all federal highways in West Virginia, and the Turnpike’s 88 miles are included in the State’s total mileage of 10,421. During the period of 1991 through 2009 (also the most recent figures I have available), the portion of funds transferred to the DOT by virtue of the inclusion of the Turnpike in that calculation was $7.2 Million. Again, not one penny of those funds was used on the Turnpike. A copy of the documentation is attached for your review. It was developed as a result of the efforts of the late Senate Don Caruth, who, as you probably know, was a persistent crusader for the removal of the discriminatory Turnpike tolls.

“Further, according to the Parkways Authority’s own website, 7.3 Million gallons of fuel were sold at the three plaza’s on the Turnpike during the most recent reporting period, resulting in total W.Va. fuel taxes of $2.4 Million; once again, none of those fuel taxes were spent on the Turnpike. Undoubtedly, over the period of its existence, tens of millions of dollars in W.Va. fuel taxes have been generated from the sale of fuel on the Turnpike, all of which were used to support highways in West Virginia other than the Turnpike.

“Hopefully the foregoing information will be helpful to you as you consider HB 3163.  I could provide you with numerous examples of how the tolls discriminate against the citizens of southern West Virginia, the most outrageous of which is the burden it places upon our veterans who have to travel to the VA Hospital in Beckley for treatment of their service-related injuries, disabilities and other conditions. The only relevant question is: How much longer are we going to allow this discrimination to continue?

“I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this continuing affront to the citizens and business of Southern West Virginia with you at any time.”

HB 3163 cleared the House on Thursday with a 97-1 vote and has been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com