W.Va. Parkways Authority approves bond sales, discounted E-ZPasses
Members of the state Parkways Authority approved a bond resolution Thursday authorizing the sale of more than $300 million in bonds, to be funded by doubling tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike.
As discussed in a three-hour work session Monday, the resolution authorizes the sale of approximately $172 million in bonds in July or August, followed by a second bond issue estimated at $139 million within two years.
The bonds will fund road and bridge construction projects on highways in 10 southeastern West Virginia counties in proximity to the Turnpike.
Parkways General Manager Greg Barr said the hope is that lost revenue from commercial traffic diversion onto alternate routes following the toll hike, and from a deeply discounted E-ZPass plan for passenger vehicles mandated by Gov. Jim Justice, will not be as severe as a toll revenue study by CDM Smith, Inc., is projecting, allowing for a larger bond issue in 2020.
Under the mandate, Parkways will offer a three-year unlimited use E-ZPass for $24, a pass that will sell for $25 a year beginning in 2022.
Currently, an E-ZPass providing unlimited passage through the Turnpike's three toll barriers runs $285 a year, and that price is prior to the doubling of passenger vehicle tolls from $2 to $4 per barrier.
Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday tweeted about the passage of the resolution, touting "big savings coming" for E-ZPass users on the Turnpike: "For a one-time fee of $24, West Virginians will have unlimited use of our Turnpike for the next three years. Families are going to save a lot of money as they travel our Great State."
Barr said Monday plans are to notify current E-ZPass users that they will be automatically switched to the new unlimited use plan, unless they opt out.
Unlimited use E-ZPass subscriptions for individuals who currently do not have E-ZPass will go on sale shortly, and will be available through Dec. 31.
The unlimited use E-ZPass is for passenger vehicles only, and will be specifically assigned to one vehicle, without the ability to move the transponder to other vehicles.
Plans are to retain current E-ZPass discounts for commercial vehicles under the new bond issue. Currently, commercial vehicles with Parkways-issued E-ZPass transponders receive a 20% discount, while transponders issued by other states register a 13% discount.