Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Airport Authority Board Votes to Double Tolls on the Dulles Toll Road

WTOP Radio was among the media outlets reporting today on the increase in the roll rate for the Dulles Toll Road. According to WTOP, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors unanimously approved a plan earlier today to raise rates along the toll road.

"Starting Jan. 1, the toll at the main gate will rise from 75 cents to $1. On Jan. 1, 2011, that toll will rise again by 25 cents to $1.25. And again in 2012, the toll will rise another 25 cents to $1.50. Meanwhile, tolls at the off ramps will go up from 50 cents to 75 cents starting this January."

The MWAA Board indicated that the revenue is needed to finance the $5.2 billion Silver Line Metro extension to the Dulles International Airport.

The Fairfax Times reports that "the Authority took over management of the 14-mile toll road from the Virginia Department of Transportation in November 2008. It is responsible for operating and maintaining the road for the next 50 years, as well as completing construction of the rail line, and is allowed to collect the toll revenue in return." The paper also noted that today's action by the MWAA Board was expected.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post notes that "the proposed increases met with little opposition at board meetings in recent weeks. Rate increases have been considered likely for months, given that the board had pledged the additional toll revenue as a source of financing for the $5 billion extension of Metrorail to Dulles International Airport.

The Post also reported that "AAA Mid-Atlantic criticized the vote, however, calling the increases 'patently unfair' for motorists in Loudoun County and for workers with low-paying jobs."

The Post article also noted that "Authority rules required the board to seek public comment, and the reaction in commuter submissions was overwhelmingly negative. Last month, the board released a summary of 221 public comments, and opponents outnumbered supporters by about 3 to 1."

The Leesburg Today reports that "in Loudoun opinions were split about the plan, with some residents saying they did not like the idea of paying higher tolls, but said the Metro project is important enough that the tolls are necessary. Others, however, said they were not pleased that the only plan to pay for the expensive project was on the backs of commuters."

The Airport Authority, in a news release today, said that "an important factor in the Board’s decision is the commitment that the Airports Authority has made to construct the Metrorail Project through the Dulles Corridor. That commitment is contained in agreements with the Commonwealth of Virginia and local governments in Northern Virginia, and is based in substantial part on the parties’ agreement that funding for the Metrorail Project is to come from Dulles Toll Road revenues, as well as contributions by the federal government, the Commonwealth, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and the Airports Authority."

So... what are your thoughts? Post your comments below about the new rate structure for the Dulles Toll Road. Will it cause you to drive less on the Toll Road?

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