Again, no toll road
The Morgan County Commissioners would do well to let state officials know they haven't changed their minds about a toll road between Berkeley Springs and Hancock.
Last year, the Division of Highways studied making the new U.S. 522 a toll road with one toll plaza near the sand mine north of Berkeley Springs. That meant most of the day-to-day traffic between Morgan County and Maryland would be subject to tolls of $1.50 for cars to $4.50 for trucks each way.
The geniuses behind this brainstorm planned to close part
of the existing U.S. 522 so you couldn't go north of North Berkeley Road, meaning that a lot of northbound traffic
would be recirculated south and east through Berkeley Springs to get on the new bypass. Seems they didn't study local traffic flow.
Most of us thought this fiasco was over when State Highway Engineer Marvin Murphy met with the commissioners last August and said the toll road was "basically off the table" because of the negative reaction locally.
"As far as we're concerned, it's not a project," Murphy said when questioned directly by Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson.
Maybe so, but in recent months both Governor Joe Manchin and State Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox have talked like the project is very much alive.
Last month, Mattox told the Bluefield paper that U.S. 522 is being considered as a future toll corridor, but the support of the Morgan County Commission is needed. Then. last week, Manchin was quoted as saying U.S. 522 "could be" a toll road.
It may be that Manchin and Mattox are just trying to make southern West Virginians feel better about a hike in West Virginia Turnpike tolls, or maybe they're testing to see if the mood here changed after the November election.
Either way, the commissioners would be wise to restate their opposition. Last year, Commissioners Hutchinson and Tommy Swaim voted for the resolution against the toll road, while Commissioner Stacy Dugan opposed it on the campaign trail. So, it shouldn't take much debate to send another loud "No!" to Charleston.