Turnpike tolls: Valid arguments for removal

An editorial from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — There are many reasons why tolls should be removed from the 88-mile West Virginia Turnpike. First and foremost is the simple fact that the original bond indebtedness associated with the creation of the 88-mile toll road between Princeton and Charleston is due to be paid in full by 2019. And once a debt is paid in full, you don’t keep making payments.

Studies have also shown turnpike traffic would actually increase along the 88-mile corridor without tolls. More goods and services could move and enhance the state’s economy, and businesses relying on the turnpike, such as trucking companies and distribution centers, would find West Virginia more amenable, as correctly noted by Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer. Tourism would also benefit.

It really is a simple matter of mathematics. The more traffic traveling on the turnpike, the greater the economic impact upon Princeton, Beckley and Charleston, and the state of West Virginia as a whole. “There’s an automatic expansion of the economy,” Gearheart said last week.

A legislative bill to end the tolls also would put a “tremendous amount” of funding into the state Division of Highways to maintain the turnpike until “the economy catches up to it,” Gearheart says. The Mercer County lawmaker has introduced several bills in recent years aimed at removing tolls from the turnpike. He believes a revenue stream generated by the turnpike’s rental property, travel plazas and other assets could help pay for the highway’s maintenance.

And last, but certainly not least, is the issue of fairness. The hard-working families and business leaders in southern West Virginia are being unfairly taxed…

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