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BSA Jamboree ups toll take on W.Va. Turnpike

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Toll collections on the West Virginia Turnpike saw a rare upswing in July -- thanks to bus traffic to and from the Boy Scout Jamboree, Parkways General Manager Greg Barr said at a West Virginia Parkways Authority meeting Thursday.

For the month, tolls were up 1.5 percent. They were up 3 percent during the period of the Jamboree, when about 40,000 scouts were bused to the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County.

"Since they were all on buses, it didn't increase the percentage all that greatly," Barr said.

There were 3,690,671 toll transactions in July, up nearly 60,000 from July 2012. Toll revenues were up $72,678, at $8.24 million for the month.

That's the first significant upturn in toll collections in nearly a year, but calendar year-to-date collections are still down about 1.5 percent, Barr said.

Overall, toll revenues of $46.99 million are $977,243 below the same point in 2012.

Also during Thursday's authority meeting:

• Commissioners discussed credit card fee charges that are costing the Parkways Authority about $550,000 a year.

When out-of-state drivers use E-Z Pass at Turnpike toll plazas, the toll payment is automatically charged to the driver's credit card, with the credit card processing fee deducted from the amount of the toll.

Because 70 percent of the Turnpike traffic is from out-of-state, the fees add up, Barr noted.

"Our outflow of credit card fees is greater than our inflow," he said.

Barr said there's no way to recover the processing fee, short of incorporating that expense into the toll amount.

"There's the argument that maybe we should at least charge them back for the credit card fee," he said.

• With approval from the Kanawha County Planning Commission, Barr said construction of six cell phone towers along a 20-mile stretch of the Turnpike in the county is on pace to begin in the spring.

Barr said that should eliminate cell phone service "dead spots" caused by hilly terrain in that area.

"The goal is to have as seamless coverage as possible," he said.

• In a rare move, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin chaired Thursday's meeting in order to honor the family of Cam Lewis. Lewis, who had been a Parkways commissioner for about seven years, died in March.

"My relationship with Cam goes back to the time I was first elected to the House of Delegates in the 1970s, when he was working with the Department of Highways," Tomblin said.

Tomblin said Lewis, who was 70, literally grew up with the Turnpike and liked to tell stories about watching the highway's construction as a youth.

Later Thursday, Tomblin participated in a dedication ceremony naming the new State Police Turnpike Detachment office at the foot of the Yeager Bridge in Kanawha City in honor of Lewis.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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