Turnpike ready for a busy weekend

BECKLEY — Officials on the West Virginia Turnpike anticipated more than a half-million vehicles would pass through their tolls booths during the five day Memorial Day travel season. Jeff Miller, General Manager of the West Virginia Parkways Authority, said they estimate at least 550,000 toll transactions will happen from Thursday through Sunday.

The authority planned to have a full complement of employees on hand to handle the expected influx of holiday travelers. He hoped motorists would be patient and careful.

“Our toll booth collectors are hard at work doing a great service for the state of West Virginia. You’re essentially driving through their office and we just ask that you take it slow,” said Miller.

The Parkways Authority is in the middle of a multi-million dollar upgrade and modernization project for the tolling system. The changes include new electronic signage at each toll plaza and eventually they’ll be able to accept credit card transactions and transition lanes to EZ Pass or cash/credit card business as the demand warrants.

But, Miller added they’re not quite there for this weekend’s travel.

“We’re still in the midst of the upgrade. That full project isn’t going to be completely finished until the end of summer. We’re entering into the summer still doing some testing on the system. Right now if you choose not to use the EZ Pass we can only accept cash. Once it’s fully implemented at all of the tolling facilities we can accept credit cards,” Miller explained.

He added the EZ Pass is the most efficient and fastest way to move through the toll plazas.

“That obviously is the quickest, most thorough and efficient route of travel through the West Virginia Turnpike tolling facilities,” he said.

Two of the main travel plazas on the Turnpike are currently under reconstruction. The Beckley Travel Plaza is still offering fuel service and parking. However, the Bluestone Travel Plaza is closed with no parking.