Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

July 19, 2012

Committee to hear pros and cons on turnpike toll removal next week

BLUEFIELD — Two delegates from southern West Virginia and at least one leader from the local business community will be discussing the prospects of removing tolls from the West Virginia Turnpike during the legislative interim meetings next week.

“I thought it was a little odd that I would receive a notice to address the House Interim Committee on Infrastructure, but when you consider that Delegate Margaret Ann Staggers, D-Fayette chairs that committee and that Delegate Linda Goode Phillips, D-Wyoming is the vice chair, it made a little more sense,” Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer said.

“Delegates Staggers and Phillips appeared to be the most interested in our proposal to remove the tolls in February 2020 after the bonds have been paid off,” Gearheart said. “The bill made it through the roads and transportation committee this year, and that’s the farthest it’s ever gone before.” Gearheart’s bill died in the House finance committee during the 2012 session.

“The Interim Committee on Infrastructure has asked Delegate Clif Moore D-McDowell to speak also,” Gearheart said. “There was a group in Princeton that has been fighting the tolls, but no one in the leadership of that group could attend on such short notice.

“I asked Marc Meachum (president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce) if he could appear before the committee and he graciously accepted the invitation.” Gearheart also said that Greg Barr, general manager of the turnpike will also address the committee.

Gearheart said that people in southern West Virginia can tune into the committee’s hearing at 4 p.m., on Tuesday, July 24. “All interim meetings are streamed on line and I think this may be important to our community and be worth (the area’s) attention,” he said. The meeting will be in Room 208 W, on the 2nd floor of the state capitol in the Senate Judiciary committee room.

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” Gearheart said. “I am going to testify, but I asked to go last. I have a committee that meets at the same time, so I may be there a little late,” he said.

Gearheart’s bill calls for the tolls to be removed seven months after the bonds are paid off in July 2019, and ownership of the toll booths and tolls should be transferred to the state Department of Highways.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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