Parkways Authority clears way for $172M bond sale

August 12, 2018

CHARLESTON — Parkways Authority members on Thursday approved the last items of paperwork necessary for $172 million in West Virginia Turnpike bonds to go to market Tuesday, Aug. 14.

While the authority had initially aimed for getting the bonds to market in April or May, Parkways General Manager Greg Barr said Thursday he’s hopeful some of the projects to be funded with the bond money will get underway this year.

That includes road safety improvements on W.Va. 10, although Barr noted that Parkways will not oversee the awarding of contracts funded through the Turnpike bonds.

″(The Division of) Highways will take charge of dispersing those funds,” he said.

The key project to be funded from the first round of Turnpike bonds is construction of 3.8 miles of four-lane roads on the King Coal Highway from Airport Road to John Nash Boulevard in Mercer County, estimated to cost $85 million.

On Thursday, the authority approved a series of policies to ensure that the bond issue complies with federal income tax and securities laws.

Authority members also entered into an agreement with Digital Assurance Certification LLC to electronically distribute annual reports and disclosure statements to bondholders as required by federal securities laws.

As part of the agreement, the company software will provide reminder notices, beginning 30 days in advance, when required reports and filings are due.

Tuesday’s bond sale is the first of two bond issues, to be repaid with Turnpike tolls, expected to total more than $300 million.

Legislation passed in 2017 extending tolls on the Turnpike for 30 years to fund the new bond issues envisioned selling a total of $500 million in bonds. However, traffic engineers have scaled that back to the $300 million range, anticipating lost revenue from deeply discounted E-ZPass rates and from commercial traffic opting for routes to bypass the Turnpike.

As mandated by Gov. Jim Justice, the legislation requires that the authority offer an unlimited-use E-ZPass for passenger vehicles at a cost of $24 for three years. Currently, an unlimited use E-ZPass costs $285 a year, and that is prior to the upcoming doubling of tolls on the Turnpike.

Also Thursday, the Parkways Authority:

• Awarded a $19.5 million contract to West Virginia

Paving to repave about 6 miles of Turnpike from Marmet to the northern terminus near Charleston.

Barr said the bid, with West Virginia Paving being the sole bidder complying with specifications, came in about 5.6 percent above cost estimates.

• Approved the purchase of 10,000 E-ZPass transponders for commercial vehicles at a cost of $7.40 per transponder. Parkways will recoup that cost since it charges a $25 fee for each commercial vehicle transponder it issues.

Barr noted that Parkways recently purchased 100,000 passenger vehicle E-ZPass transponders, anticipating a surge in demand for the discounted unlimited-use pass.

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