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Parkways OKs Turnpike gas plaza contract to 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Parkways Authority members approved a new contract Thursday for operations of service stations at the West Virginia Turnpike's travel plazas -- a contract that extends to the theoretical end of the Turnpike's life as a toll road.

For Parkways, the new seven-year contract with the current service stations operator, PM Terminals of Roanoke, Va., should mean about $75,000 in increased revenue each year, for an estimated total of $891,000 annually, according to general manager Greg Barr.

"I was pleased they actually increased the rate they bid over the previous contract," Barr said after the special board meeting. "Just to go up was good for us."

Under the bid proposal, PM will pay Parkways:

| 11.07 cents for each gallon of gasoline sold, up from the current 10.57 cents.

| 10.10 cents for each gallon of diesel sold, up from 10.06 cents.

| 20 percent of revenue for sales of snacks, beverages and any other products sold at the service plazas, up from 16 percent.

The percentage increase in those items triggers a clause in the contract with food service operator HMS Host for a 2 percent increase in its payments to Parkways for its sale of those snack and beverage items, expected to provide $25,000 a year of additional revenue.

The contract runs though 2019, the year that bonds to finance the Turnpike will be paid off, potentially marking the end of its operations as a toll road.

"It gives opportunities with whatever they decide to do with Parkways at that time," Barr said of extending the contract to 2019.

It's not clear what will happen to the travel plazas if tolls on the Turnpike are removed. Federal Department of Transportation regulations prohibit travel plazas on interstates, but allow exceptions for various toll roads around the country, Barr said.

"If they ever take the tolls off," he said, "I don't know if that permission would remain or not."

Parkways received one other bid for the contract, from One Stop of Belle, but it offered significantly lower rates of payment for fuel and other purchases, and would have provided about $360,000 less revenue a year for Parkways.

Also Thursday:

| Barr said the Turnpike is experiencing an initial upswing in Christmas holiday traffic, something he attributed to good weather, and promising long-term forecasts for the travel period.

"I would hope we'd see a little bump," Barr said, "maybe a 1 percent increase."

Snowy travel has marked the past two holiday periods, including the infamous pre-Christmas blizzard of 2009 that trapped hundreds of travelers on the Turnpike overnight.

"If nothing else, I think the weather's going to help us" he said, "and from what I'm seeing, it should last at least through the end of the month."

Overall, Turnpike traffic has been down about 3 percent for the year, he said.

| Parkways members discussed in executive session negotiations toward a possible settlement with W.Q. Watters Co. for reimbursement of costs of environmental cleanup, after the contractor failed to contain lead-paint chips while under contract to repaint the Bluestone Bridge.

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


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