CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike could increase to more than $4 for passenger cars if a plan proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways becomes law.
Commission members met Thursday to finalize their recommendations to Tomblin. If passed in its entirety, the plan would generate $1.1 billion for road construction and maintenance.
Members approved part of the plan earlier this month, which would generate about $100 million through increases to Division of Motor Vehicles fees and an annual registration fee for alternative fuel vehicles.
The remaining $1 billion would come from road bonds, borrowed against the West Virginia Turnpike.
Although tolls on the 88-mile Turnpike are currently set to come off in 2019, the commission recommends the state keep the tollbooths intact and use that revenue to pay back the road bonds.
The plan also includes regular toll increases.
Turnpike drivers currently pay $2 at each tollbooth. Commercial vehicles pay $6.75.
The commission put out two options for consideration. A plan modeled on recent changes to the Ohio turnpike would raise $600 million over the next 30 years, increasing tolls by 10 percent in the first year and 2.7 percent each year thereafter over the next decade.
A plan modeled on Pennsylvania's turnpike would generate $1 billion by increasing tolls 25 percent in the first year, then 3 percent per year over the next 20 years.
That means in 2033, under the Pennsylvania plan, passenger cars would have to fork over $4.38 just to get from Charleston to Cabin Creek.
Under the Ohio plan, passenger car tolls would top out at $2.87 by 2024.
West Virginia residents using an E-Z Pass transponder would not see toll increases in the first five years of the plan, however.
Commission Chairman Jason Pizatella said the group would submit recommendations to Tomblin sometime in the next few weeks, after members have had a chance to proofread the finalized report.
The recommendations are a long way from becoming law.
While Tomblin likely will use the commission's report to craft legislation, the bill still would have to go through the Legislature. That could happen in a special session this year, or the regular legislative session that begins in January.