Money Sought For Road Upkeep

CHARLESTON (AP) – Members of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways are suggesting an increase in tolls and vehicle fees as part of a plan to generate $1.1 billion in funding for state infrastructure.

The commission is finalizing a report that it will sent to Tomblin that will list suggestions for how West Virginia might raise road project funding.

A recent engineering study said West Virginia would need $1.3 billion to maintain its current roads while continuing to expand its infrastructure.

Media outlets report that the commission suggests the state increase tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike, raise fees at the Division of Motor Vehicles by $77.4 million and create a $200 annual registration fee for alternative fuel vehicles. Members say they can raise money for roads without raising taxes.

The move would generate just over $100 million and members believe they can generate another $1 billion by borrowing money through road bonds. The state would repay that debt by keeping tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike, which are currently set to come off in 2019.

But the commission may have an uphill climb convincing some West Virginians to support the bond issue, including the governor himself.

“I’m not sure a bond issue of that magnitude at this time is something we want to get into, but I’ll reserve judgment until I see the final report,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said of recommendation made by the 31-member commission was appointed by Tomblin about a year ago.

He said the members have put a great deal of effort into their work and he’ll be going through “each and every page of the report thoroughly, to determine what we’ll be asking the Legislature to do.”

Commission members recently held nine public meetings around the state, receiving almost 1,400 responses in an effort to gauge public opinion before finishing their report.